Anyone ever miss being a kid around this time of year?
Christmas was always my favorite season as I grew up with parents that, who although struggling financially, always found ways to make the season special for my sister, C.J., and me. How much we take for granted about our folks when we are kids, and how much we wish, later, that we hadn’t.
Christmas was a time of Sears & Roebuck catalogues, of scouting-out trips to the our favorite local stores where the toys aisle grew to three or four aisles during December. It was a time of meting Santa Claus, and it was a time of writing letters to the big man. Those were handwritten letters going to the North Pole. It was a time when it didn’t stretch the imagination a bit to believe in something like the Polar Express.
Things have changed
As a grown man who teaches students a couple generations younger than than me, I see everyday the ways their world is different than mine was as a young person. Here in this season, not only are Sears catalogues a thing of the past, but so is Sears itself.
And putting pen to paper to write Santa Claus, even when these college kids were in that stage a few years ago? A line from the film Goodfellas sums it up: fuggedaboudit!
Digital Santas abound
So I was checking around on the Web to see some of the high-tech ways there are for kids to reach Santa these days in the digital age. Here are three sites that popped out:
There’s a site aptly named, The North Pole. (Imagine what that domain name would cost, should it go up for sale.) If you can handle the Lawrence Welk-style of It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, this site has a few things going for it. For one, you can e-mail Santa and get a quick reply. No stamps needed here nor hoping the post office really knows where the North Pole is located. You can also play some games, listen to some more Christmas muzak, and read the story of The Night Before Christmas. You can also click a link that will take you a spot where you can learn what Christmas is like in 30 countries around the world. As of today, nearly 83 million kids have visited Santa on this site, according to its counter.
Santa’s Secret Village
Meanwhile, over at Northpole.com you can encounter “Santa’s Secret Village,” and enter the various workshops and cottages that make up this interactive town. Stopping in Santa’s Workshop is a must, of course, where you will meet Burt, the head elf who shows you what he and his buds are busy making. And you can also click a link that will allow you to read stories and color them while you’re doing it. Over in Santa’s Toy Shop, you can browse unique, popular, or educational toys and — what else — order them, of course. And in the Reindeer Barn, you meet Raymond and click away on various parts of the barn to hear stories about the animals and what they’re up to.
Take your chances
And over at the Portable North Pole you can order up a personalized video message from Santa himself. The only question I have about this particular Santa is he sounds like a cross between Peter Falk and Bela Lugosi, so I’m not certain he wouldn’t send kids screaming into the night instead of putting smiles on their faces. Still, it might be worth the risk.
After spending some time with these and other sites, I have come to the conclusion that — for this overgrown kid, anyway — I liked the Sears catalogue, my pen and paper, and my imagination better.
Low-tech or not, that kind of Christmas was always the most magical time of the year for me and my sister.
Merry Christmas, everyone.