Search: portable north pole

You know what I love? Christmas. You know what one of my favourite things about Christmas is? Revisiting the same traditions year after year as the boys get older and watching them reinterpret the traditions for whatever age they are at.

It’s been nearly a decade since we discovered the Portable North Pole (PNP), and it has become one of the Christmas traditions my kids love best. Even now that they’re teenagers (sidebar: what? when did that happen?) they still watch their annual video message from Santa, and Lucas has already started speculating about when his video might arrive. Truth be told, I credit the Portable North Pole for keeping the magic alive – I’m sure my kids accepted Santa as real for years in no small part thanks to the arrival of their personalized video messages each year. I have loved watching their faces as they watch the videos!

Talking to Santa

So what is the Portable North Pole? At its core, it’s a wonderful little site where you can upload a few photos and select a few options and make a customized video letter from Santa for your child. There’s just enough details in the video that it truly seems that Santa has been keeping track of who has been naughty and who has been nice, and it’s all rolled together in a cute little storyline. The options change from year to year, so even after nearly a decade, the kids have never received the same video twice. And, since the kids always watch each others’ videos, I’m delighted that there are always at least three unique videos to choose from each year, so they are truly personalized for each kid.

They have added lots of other fun activities through the years on the PNP site. Now in addition to the personalized video letters from Santa, you can get bedtime stories from Santa and birthday wishes from Santa. There’s an app, and fun and games on the Santa’s Village microsite, and your kiddies can even get a telephone call from Santa. And, in a touch that I think is lovely, 5% of all funds collected through the sale of magic passes is donated to childrens’ hospitals around the world.

IMHO, though, the real magic of the Portable North Pole is the video messages. For Black Friday (now through November 27) use THIS LINK and coupon code PNP7BFD to save 30% off a Magic Pass. If you’re seeing this after November 27, feel free to use discount code PNP7BLG20 to save 20% when you purchase a video pass or a magic pass. (Here’s an article that explains the difference between the video pass and the magic pass.) There are also a small selection of free videos available. There’s a little something for everyone!

If you do use the coupon codes, be sure to come back and let me know if your kids loved it as much as my boys do!

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(Disclosure: I received a complimentary video pass in exchange for writing this post, but I’ve written before about PNP and genuinely recommend the sweet, fun videos to add a little extra sparkle to your Christmas magic!)


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Santa? There’s an app for that

by DaniGirl on December 3, 2012 · 2 comments

in Happy holidays

(Ha, I started writing this post and then remembered I’d written something similar. I dug around in the archives and found the one I was looking for, from 2009. I’m sure I haven’t looked at it since I published it three years ago, but I had taken exactly the same approach and even used some of the same wording in the original opening paragraph to this post that I used back then. I’m not sure if I’m plagiarizing myself or showing early signs of senility!)

Ahem. So, apparently back in 2009 I wrote this post about five ways to interact with Santa. The five ways were:

– the Portable North Pole
– letters and e-mails to Santa via Canada Post
– NORAD’s Santa Tracker
– follow Santa on Facebook
– follow Santa on Twitter

FWIW, the Portable North Pole is still my favourite, and NORAD’s Santa Tracker a close second. As far as I know, the magic of Christmas is intact in the imaginations of my offspring, and I credit the videos from PNP (and perhaps an unwillingness to jinx the appearance of presents on Christmas morning?) with their utter lack of skepticism.

Because they were so charmed by the PNP (and have even started wondering when their videos will ‘arrive’ this year in Mom’s inbox), I think they’ll be equally delighted with this: you can now make an appointment to Skype with Santa. How cute is that? You can reserve your child’s 10 minute Skype with Santa courtesy of the Toronto Eaton Centre now through December 23.

Although I’ve used Facetime, I am embarrassed to admit that this social media maven has never actually used Skype. Like making a Blurb book, this is another thing I’ve been meaning to conquer but never seemed to get around to, so it will be good practice. Feel free to share Skype tips!

I figure it’s only a matter of time before technology brings us a holographic Santa that pops out of the chimney on Christmas morning…

(Edited to add: and ha, again. Apparently I wrote about Christmas apps in 2010 too. Oy, I really am starting to repeat myself!!)


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The one with her annual reindeer rant

by DaniGirl on December 14, 2010 · 10 comments

in Happy holidays

Hmmm, something’s just not quite right. The tree is up, the stockings are hung, the malls are filled with frantic holiday shoppers and Magic 100 has switched to all-Christmas-music-all-the-time format. I’ve blogged about Santa parades and the Portable North Pole. I’ve got all my bloggy holiday traditions covered, but it feels like something is missing.

Oh riiiiiiiight. It’s time for the annual reindeer rant! :) If I can educate one misinformed soul every year about the correct names of Santa’s reindeer, my mission will be a success.

“You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen;
Comet and Cupid and DONDER and Blitzen…”

As you might know, my last name is Donders. As such, it has been my lifelong quest to set the record straight and right the wrongs entrenched by Johnny Marks and Gene Autry.

Reindeer TtV

Here’s a little history lesson for you. The poem “A Visit From St Nicholas”, commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas”, was written back in 1823 and is generally attributed to American poet Clement Clarke Moore (although there have been recent arguments that the poem was in fact written by his contemporary Henry Livingston Jr.) The original poem reads, in part:

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name.
“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on Dunder and Blixem!

As explained on the Donder Home Page (no relation):

In the original publication of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” in 1823 in the Troy Sentinel, “Dunder and Blixem” are listed as the last two reindeer. These are very close to the Dutch words for thunder and lightning, “Donder and Bliksem”. Blixem is an alternative spelling for Bliksem, but Dunder is not an alternative spelling for Donder. It is likely that the word “Dunder” was a misprint. Blitzen’s true name, then, might actually have been “Bliksem”.

In 1994, the Washington Post delved into the matter by sending a reporter to the Library of Congress to reference the source material. (In past years, I’d been able to link to a Geocities site with the full text, but sadly, Geocities is no more.)

We were successful. In fact, Library of Congress reference librarian David Kresh described Donner/Donder as “a fairly open-and-shut case.” As we marshaled the evidence near Alcove 7 in the Library’s Main Reading Room a few days ago, it quickly became clear that Clement Clarke Moore, author of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” wanted to call him (or her?) “Donder.” Never mind that editors didn’t always cooperate. […] Further confirmation came quickly. In “The Annotated Night Before Christmas,” which discusses the poem in an elegantly illustrated modern presentation, editor Martin Gardner notes that the “Troy Sentinel” used “Dunder”, but dismisses this as a typo. Gardner cites the 1844 spelling as definitive, but also found that Moore wrote “Donder” in a longhand rendering of the poem penned the year before he died: “That pretty well sews it up,” concluded Kresh.

So there you have it. This Christmas season, make sure you give proper credit to Santa’s seventh reindeer. On DONDER and Blitzen. It’s a matter of family pride.


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This post was inspired by a CBC article about how Shaw Cable moved its beloved Yule Log channel to a Video On Demand channel. The previously free stream featuring nothing but a Yule log burning in a fireplace, now entering its 25th year, will now cost 99 cents. The fee, plus a matching amount from Shaw, will be donated to charity. Thanks to the Twitter conversation about the change to Shaw’s Yule log channel, I discovered that of course there’s an app for that. And then I fell down the rabbit hole of iPhone Christmas apps.

Here are five of the most interesting Christmas-themed apps I found. (Caveat: I have not tested many of these. Use at your own risk!)

1. The Yule Log app. As soothing and oddly compelling as Log itself.

2. Christmas Music by Nutsie. Thousands of Christmas songs wrapped up in dozens of playlists like Top 100 Christmas Songs, Children’s Christmas, Krazy Kristmas, and (I’m so curious, I may just have to fork out the $1.99 for this one) the Jingle Bells Playlist.

3. Postcards from Santa. This one is getting such great reviews that I think I might have to try it myself! “Select from a number of charming santa images, use our pre-written santa message or write your own, and enter the name and mailing address of the child you want to send the postcard to. We will print the customized postcard and drop it in the mail. Your child’s postcard will arrive only a few days later in the mail.” Fun!

4. Talking Santa. “Talk to Santa and he will repeat your words. Poke, swipe or tickle Santa to see his various reactions. Run Santa over with a huge snowball. (I can hear my boys howling over this already!) Give Santa milk & cookies. Touch the bag to see more than 20 gifts. Shake your device and see what happens.”

5. The Christmas Tree Decorating App. No space for a tree? This seems like a silly little app to help you feel like you decorated the tree. “Decorate your tree however you choose with colored lights, ornaments, candy canes and icicles. But be careful not to drop any ornaments or you will hear that dreaded shatter! Watch your individually decorated tree sparkle as you countdown the days till Christmas.”

And, for those of you who don’t have an iPhone or an iPad, here’s four more 21st Century Christmas sites and services!

I’ve said before how much of a huge fan I am of the Portable North Pole application. Upload a picture and make a few specifications on Santa’s site, and Santa will e-mail you a link to a personalized video that mentions your child by name AND shows a picture of him or her in Santa’s big book. This is a delightful service and my boys are already asking if Santa will be sending them a new message this year. (Um, note to self — next task on list = upload pix to Portable North Pole!)

Along the same lines, Sympatico’s Magic Santa is an online video service you can use to make free personalized videos messages from Santa for your kids. Sympatico.ca is partnering with Kids Help Phone and will be giving $0.25 to them for every video made up to $50,000. There’s also is a contest… one family will win a trip to Walt Disney World by capturing a photo or video of a child’s reaction to a Magic Santa video and submitting it to the contest site by December 19, 2010. And there’s even a Magic Santa iPhone app.

The NORAD Santa Tracker site has been around for awhile, but now there’s a mobile version, too! This Christmas eve, join NORAD to track Santa’s flight from your phone. On December 24th, open Google Maps for mobile and do a search for “Santa” to see his latest location.

And of course, you can always follow Santa on Twitter!

Completely serendipitously, just as I was finishing this post, my brother e-mailed me this amazing video of a Christmas concert staged entirely with iPhones and iPads. As my brother said, how could you NOT want an iPhone or an iPad after you see this?

We’ve come a long way from letters the editor, haven’t we Virginia?


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Back in the day, the only ways you could “interact” with Santa were to stand in line at the mall to sit on his knee, or maybe at your parents’ annual company Christmas party.

Now that we live in an interactive world, though, not only can your kids write a letter to Santa, or listen to Christmas Eve updates of his whereabouts from the local weather man, but you can get e-mails, videos and track the big dude yourself starting early in December. Here are five fun ways for kids to communicate with Santa, starting with my fave.

1. The Portable North Pole. I love this app, madly and deeply. Whomever came up with this and put it together is brilliant. I did this last year and the look on the boys’ faces was priceless — and though I haven’t been all the way through it this year, I can see they’ve made even more improvements and personalization. You the parent have to go in ahead of time and set it up, supplying your kids’ first names, something they’ve done that’s good, a photo if you like, and other personalized details. They give you a link to a video, and you can visit it later with your kids. I must remember to go in tonight to set up all three boys, so they’ll know Santa is thinking about them!

2. Letters and e-mails to Santa. Yes, it’s true, you can e-mail Santa and he’ll reply, but isn’t the ritual of writing and sending an actual paper letter, and then the eye-popping excitement of getting something back in the mail box, worth the extra effort? In Canada, you have to mail your letters before December 16 if you want a reply. Mail to:

Santa Claus
North Pole
H0H 0H0

Or you can send an e-mail through canadapost.ca/santascorner. (Hmmm, in the US, it seems that the US Postal Service has stopped providing a Letters to Santa service this year. Any other ideas from our American friends?)

3. Norad’s Santa Tracker. When I was a kid, I remember watching with slack-jawed wonder as Percy Saltzman, the weather man on Global News, talked about Norad tracking Santa as he began his journey around the world on Christmas Eve. I think just about everybody has heard of Norad’s Santa Tracking service, but I had no idea of this charming history to the project, courtesy of WikiPedia:

In 1955, a Colorado Springs-based Sears store ran an advertisement encouraging children to call Santa Claus on a special telephone hotline. Due to a printing error, the phone number that was printed was the hotline for the Director of Operations at the Continental Air Defense (CONAD). Colonel Harry Shoup took the first Santa call on Christmas Eve of 1955 from a six-year old boy who began reciting his Christmas list. Shoup didn’t find the call funny, but after asking the mother of the second caller what was happening, then realizing the mistake that occurred, he instructed his staff to give Santa’s position to any child who called in.

In 1997, Canadian Major Jamie Robertson took over the program and expanded it to the Web where corporation-donated services have given the tradition global accessibility. In 2004, NORAD received more than 35,000 e-mails, 55,000 calls and 912 million hits on the Santa-tracking website from 181 countries. The site now gets well over 1 billion hits.

Love it!

4. Friend Santa’s on Facebook Last year, there was a kerfuffle online when Facebook refused to let Santa have more than 5000 friends but the Norad Tracks Santa page has more than 37,000 fans. And if you’re in it for the presents, the I Believe In Santa Claus group has more than 150,000 fans and seems to have regular giveaways.

5. Follow Santa on Twitter. Alas, Santa is not immune to the celebrity social media phenomenon of having squatters steal his identity, but you can trust updates from @noradsanta (official twitter ID of the Norad Santa Tracker project) and @SantaClaus is keeping a public list of who’s naughty and nice! (And, those of you with a more cynical inclination to the holidays might appreciate the tweets of @loadedsanta, definitely not safe for kids!)


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A colleague of mine (Hi Dawna!) tipped me off to this at a Christmas party the other day. If you are Canadian and have kids who still believe in the wonder of Santa, you *must* visit the Portable North Pole.

You answer a few questions like how old is your child, first name, gender, province of residence and a few others, and then upload a photo of your child (optional, but worth it!) Santa will e-mail them a personalized video greeting. Tristan and Simon were open-mouthed with wonder, especially when Santa opened his big book and said, “Hmmm, Tristan, let me see. Oh yes, here you are!” and turned his book to show Tristan’s name and a photo of him. Priceless at any cost, but totally free! (We had extra fun with ours because the photos I uploaded came from our trip to North Pole, New York earlier this year. Upped the believability factor by 10, IMHO!)

I sometimes have trouble finding personalized mass-produced trinkets with Tristan, Simon and Lucas written on them (dang, shoulda named them Ryan, Matthew and Michael!) but all three names were in the drop-down menu on Portable Santa. I’m highly impressed!

Give it a try, your kids will LOVE it!


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