Posts Tagged ‘santa’

Santa Claus Makes Secret Visit To Elementary School

Our investigative reporters have it that Santa Claus took out some time from his gift wrapping schedule to make a special visit to a school in Tampa yesterday morning.

Always a special occasion the local police had been alerted and to There was fire crews escorted Santa through the city to the DeSoto Elementary School.

Santa Claus handed out several small gifts and read Christmas stories to the children.

Diane Miller of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said the visit had been organized by Sincerely Santa.

Sincerely standbys and organization that works to identify schools where there are a lot of children from poorer families.

They been providing children toys and clothes turned the Christmas season for 20 years.

Police: Santa Violates City Code – Threatens Fine

The owners of the Daytona Beach store LaBosco has been warned by code enforcement police officers that if they allow Santa Claus to leave the store to walk outside, they will be fined.

The police considers the Santa Claus a form of animated sign solicitation which would be a violation of city code.

“Santa Claus is not an animated figure standing out there on the street. He’s a real person, and he’s communicating and bringing some spirit down here that we need so badly.

They want to take something away from the children. I wonder if the city is going to have a Christmas parade — maybe Santa should not be on the Christmas parade or none of this parade should happen.

It’s ridiculous. Next, they’re going to take away our freedom of speech. It’s unfair and it’s unacceptable.”
— Sheila LaBosco, LaBosco Manager

Latest report have it that police are backing down from their Santa Claus threats.

Marines Helping Santa

It is customary to see the tall white boxes with a picture of Santa Claus on it during the holiday season. And this year is no exception.

The Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots campaign officially kicked off Oct. 15. And the program is anticipating giving away more toys than in 2007.

Guy White, past coordinator of the Toys for Tots program and Ocala West Marine Corps League member, said they are hoping to help 11,000 children this year. Last year, the group gave toys to 9,948 children in the county, which amounted to about 28,000 toys.

Organizations like the Salvation Army, Sheltering Arms, Interfaith Emergency Services, and Ocala Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Center put in requests to Toys for Tots for the needy children affiliated with their programs. Individuals cannot make requests for the toys.

Jim McCarthy, Ocala West Marine Corps member, said each child gets a toy, some stocking stuffers depending on their age and a stuffed animal. “They’re getting a variety” of toys, he said.

The Marine Corps Reserve has distributed about 130 collection boxes throughout Marion County at businesses, organizations and government agencies. Businesses like Toys R Us, Palm Chevrolet and CCS Mechanical are big contributors to the Toys for Tots campaign.

In addition, Dr. Debra Allen starts buying toys for the program in late December for the next year’s drive. White said the Morriston doctor has a room in her house filled with toys for the Marines. On Friday, he picked up the first of approximately three truckloads of toys from her, which included an assortment of items like board games and books. Last year, she donated about $2,000 worth of toys for .

7 Year Old with Heart of Gold Rides with Santa

The annual Christmas parade in Monroe will be very special coming Sunday for second grader Hannah Demski.

Hannah is seven years old and goes to Central Elementary School in Erie.

She won a sponsored essay and this has given her the right to write with Santa Claus and his elves in Sunday’s Christmas parade.

In her letter to Santa Hannah had pledged to always behave and to donate some Barbie dolls to children who are sick and in the hospital.

True to her word, shortly after writing the letter Hannah donated her Barbie doll to a local department store that provides new Barbie dolls to children who are ill.

Thiefs Steal Santa Claus

Well, Santa is gone. Which is kind of a hard feat because Santa in this case is a 9 foot high statue. It disappeared Friday night.

With the Watts family out of town Friday night the 9 foot resin statue of Santa clause disappeared. When they report that the statue is missing a police officer of the Schaumburg Police Department reported that it seems then that strapped to the roof of the Jeep Cherokee.

It would take at least two people to lift the statue; it’s quite heavy and quite bulky. The statue is valued at at least $1000.

“He’s huge. He’s big around. He’s got a sack of toys on his back and he’s a big boy.

I’m just sad that someone stole Santa. Christmas isn’t about Santa Claus. It’s about love and family and Jesus’ birthday.”
— Mr. Watts

The family has been putting their Christmastide shouts for the plastic spheres. Neighborhood children have their picture taken with it.

Where to buy Santa suits?

You probably don’t know this nor would you guess it, but one of the hardest things for Santa Claus every year is buying clothes. It’s not like you can walk into just any store and say “give me a pair of red trousers and the hat to go with it.”

And those times that you do find a Santa Claus costume it’s usually one for kids whereas, as we all know, Santa Claus needs an adult Santa Claus costume. And to make things worse, searching for “adult Santa Claus suit” at times leads to places where Santa rather doesn’t go.

Fortunately for you and I – because who would want to see Santa Claus in a pair of jeans? – there’s a great place on the web to buy Santa suits:

There are well over 30 suits on Most of these are your traditional Santa Claus suits.

We did spot two rather odd ones: they’re blue! And unfortunately there was one “adult” costume. Nothing bad but it’s a theme you don’t easily associate with Christmas.

Now, as there aren’t a lot of Santa Clauses around the world, and so his clothes can’t be mass-produced, prices can get rather steep. But fortunately for Santa, who also feels t Yahe recession, there’s also an economy Santa suit.

economy Santa suit

That’s good too because some of these suits are really very pricey. I would go as far as saying expensive. I have the idea that a good number of them are aimed more at public appearances than one-off in-house appearances. And war is if your job is Santa Claus a good suit is a good investment.

Most costumes come with the basics with a lot of extras being available elsewhere on the site. There is for instance a Santa belly…

In all, and this really is the most important thing, the Santa suits are very convincing. They don’t look like cheap rip-offs which merely hint at what they’re supposed to be. If you have kids or work with them you’ll appreciate what I mean :-)

Now as for the actual quality of the suits I can’t say much. I’ve seen them on the website and haven’t tried them myself. That said, while researching the company I haven’t found any indication of malpractice: in fact, when you do find something written about buycostumes it’s in the positive. People tend to be very, very satisfied both with the product and the service.

As a specialty costume maker buycostumes also provides other costumes, such as Halloween costumes. Taking that into account, that buycostumes makes it money solely from specialty costumes, I feel comfortable reviewing the site in the positive.

Does Santa Claus Exist?

One of the hardest questions yet also one of the most frequently asked here at Joy of Christmas is: does Santa Claus exist?

There is of course the “Yes, Virginia” argument as to the question of whether or not Santa Claus exists and historical, almost touristic routes along lines of folklore and figures which can be likened to Santa Claus but we here at Joy of Christmas go a simple step further and unequivocally say; does Santa Claus exist? … YES

Now of course the last thing you want to do, and this doubly so if you’re a kid looking to find a truthful answer to this question, is to take any fool’s word for it at face value. That’s what got you into this mess in the first place and is what has you doubting Santa Claus’ existence right now, isn’t it?

Well, our luxury of answering you with a loud and sound Yes, Santa Claus does exist comes from recorded, US government approved evidence.

Read that again: the question “does Santa Claus exist” can be answered with official records, admissible in court!

After extensive research Joy of Christmas has laid hands on no less than 4 US certified official documents which have recorded Santa’s existence!

US government papers showing Santa Claus exists

You can read more in our Christmas directory in the entry Santa Claus.

Letters from Santa Delivered from the North Pole

Salt Lake City based business Women of Wisdom, Inc. launches in an effort to add a special element to the Christmas season for your child.

Every year thousands of adults across the world buy personalized letters from Santa for the children that they love. This year, the letters that are purchased can put a smile on more faces than just the faces of the children receiving them. Women of Wisdom, Inc. has launched their website and is committing 10% of net profits to the purchase gifts for children who may otherwise not have a visit from Santa Claus. The donations will go directly to their nonprofit website and will be directed towards making Christmas a happy occasion for children in need.

Santa Said was created by moms for parents. Santa letters are personalized letters from Santa and delivered directly from the North Pole. Each letter from Santa is personalized with the child’s name, about their accomplishments, and gifts from their wish list. All information and payment information is confidential and will not be sold.

Christmas is a magical and fun time for each child and creating new Christmas memories is one of the best ways to carry on a tradition that will last a lifetime. Santa Said creates a personalized letter from Santa that is mailed directly from the North Pole. Each letter is created on holiday themed paper and includes information personal to your child.

Women of Wisdom Inc. found that many other sites offering Santa Letters did not keep your child’s information private and secure. They understand how important this is and that your personal information should be protected at all times. Their website does not sell or otherwise release any of your or your child’s information. It is their goal to provide a safe secure environment for parents, friends, and relatives to know that by ordering that the child’s personal information and safety is their top priority. Create a special memory for years to come by sending a personalized letter from Santa Claus from Santa Said.

The Santa Claus Letter can be ordered from Each letter is only $5.00, you can also order the letter on a puzzle for an additional $5.00. The website is safe and secure.

Santa Said also donates 10% of the profits directly to charity. It is so important to give back and to purchase products and services from companies or entities that continually give back to our communities and to those who are in need. The spirit of Christmas is alive and well.

Women of Wisdom, Inc. is a business run by women, mothers, aunts, and more. They pride themselves on offering quality products and opportunities to those around them. Their passion is life and family, this shows through in everything that they do. Stay tuned for more exciting news from Women of Wisdom, Inc. in the future.

As the Leaves Change, Holiday Ads Arrive

BEGINNING to look a lot like Christmas? Heck, for consumers, it has been looking that way for more than a month.

Some marketers are already running advertisements for — and posting content on Web sites about — merchandise, entertainment and other offerings related to the holiday season. Trees, theater tickets, holiday trips, porcelain Nativity scenes, crystal snowmen and even a New York Mets Christmas Village are being peddled in print and online ads.

There is a simple reason for this holiday creep: with the economy in such fragile shape, sellers of holiday goods and services are seeking to gather their dollars while they may.

“I do start early, and it has been very successful,” said Leon Gamze, president and chief executive at in Barrington, Ill., which sells artificial trees, lights and other Christmas merchandise.

How early? Advertisements for began appearing in September issues of magazines, which are published in August. One reader received the September issues of two magazines that carried ads from Mr. Gamze, Good Housekeeping and Martha Stewart Living, on Aug. 7.

To acknowledge the state of the economy, some ads for say, “Don’t miss our large selection of budget buys for extra savings!”

Although “the bulk of my business is October, November, December,” Mr. Gamze said, front-running the holiday alleviates some of the need to make sales closer to Christmas, when competition intensifies.

Other marketers already starting the holiday season, include Radio City Music Hall, part of Cablevision Systems. Its first ad for the 2008 edition of the annual “Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” featuring the Rockettes, ran on Sept. 7 in the fall preview issue of the Arts & Leisure section of The New York Times.

A spokeswoman for Radio City, Mikyl Cordova, said “the fall preview has always traditionally launched the media campaign” to sell tickets to the show, which this year will be performed Nov. 7 to Dec. 30.

Then, too, there are the purveyors of trinkets, bric-and-brac and collectibles like the Bradford Editions, the Hamilton Collection and Hawthorne Village.

They are already selling, among other things, the Thomas Kinkade “Holiday Reflections” crystal Christmas tree, the Hope Is Born Nativity, the Ultimate Disney Holiday Village, ornaments bearing portraits of New York Yankee players and the aforementioned Mets Christmas Village, including a snow-covered Shea Stadium with Santa Claus outside.

“You certainly shouldn’t be rushing Christmas, but it’s nice to be talking about your plans ahead of time,” said Frances Croke Page, a longtime executive at agencies like BBDO. She is starting a Web site devoted to New York during the holidays (, aimed at residents as well as tourists.

The Web site, developed by What Works, an agency in Long Island City, Queens, is intended as “a place to go for planning,” Ms. Page said, “not a place to go for jumping the gun” on the holiday season.

“I don’t want to get in the way of Halloween,” she added, laughing.

That sentiment was echoed by Kevin McCollum, producer of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” a Broadway musical with 63 preview and regular performances from Nov. 14 to Jan. 4. The first ad for the show ran on Sept. 7 and tickets went on sale on Sunday.

“You open your mailbox the day after Halloween, and all those holiday catalogs are there,” Mr. McCollum said.

Still, “I’m not getting a sense it’s too early for Christmas,” he added, referring to the timing of the campaign for his show, created by SpotCo, part of the First Artist Corporation.

The limited time the musical will be staged, its orientation toward family audiences and its Christmas theme mean “we have to get the word out” early, Mr. McCollum said. “If you’re buying four and six and eight tickets at a time, you have to plan it.”

Planning is also the rationale for a mid-September start for a campaign to promote visiting New Orleans for the holiday season. The campaign, by Peter A. Mayer Advertising, carries the theme “Christmas New Orleans style.”

“What we find is that people planning to travel over the holidays are already making their decisions now,” said Sandy Shilstone, president and chief executive at the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation.

“And we have requests for ‘Christmas New Orleans style’ information all year round,” she added, received by mail, phone and the Internet (

The campaign includes holiday themes for entertainment and meals, along with discount “Papa Noël” hotel rates.

Most major retailers wait until Nov. 1 to decorate their stores for Christmas or begin running ads with Christmas trappings. If they try to start earlier, they can draw complaints from consumers who prefer a more traditional approach to the shopping calendar.

But holiday merchandise can already be found on the Web sites of retailers like Target and Wal-Mart.

Mr. Gamze of said that occasionally his company would receive an e-mail message from a consumer who “will be a little cranky” that the company begins advertising so early, “but it’s rare.”

“If it wasn’t working for me, I wouldn’t do it,” he added. “I’m not that meshugeneh.”

Christmas parade canceled, other events still planned

South Milwaukee’s Old Fashioned Christmas Parade has been canceled for this year, and a lack of volunteers could endanger the celebration’s other activities, said Bob Pfeiffer, Old Fashioned Christmas Committee chairman.

“We just don’t have the money, nor do we have the volunteers to do (a parade),” Pfeiffer said.

Old Fashioned Christmas began about 10 years ago with family activities at City Hall. The parade became part of the festivities about five years ago, but weather and volunteer numbers have made it difficult to put on, Pfeiffer said.

Funding for Old Fashioned Christmas is provided entirely through contributions. The committee still has enough money for family activities, provided enough people volunteer to run them, Pfeiffer said.

“We’re going to use those funds, the little money we have left there, to put on the activities at City Hall, the tree lighting and fireworks,” Pfeiffer said.

There also will be crafts and food.

Don Bulley, a former parade Santa Claus and husband to the current Mrs. Claus, said it is sad to lose the parade.

“It was either that or cut out the rest of the program. There will still be a Santa Claus and a Mrs. Claus. We’re saving the most important part.”

This year’s celebration will be Sunday, Nov. 30, at City Hall, 2424 15th Ave. The committee has not yet set an exact time.

If enough money and volunteers can be found, Pfeiffer said, there could be a parade next year.

“We’ll probably need about $8,000 (for next year),” he said.

Mayor Thomas Zepecki said ongoing economic turbulence may continue to impact funding for events like Old Fashioned Christmas.

“It always depends on the amount of contributors and the ability and wherewithal of the private industry and commercial people to invest in those types of things,” Zepecki said. “Certainly you’re not going to put government money in it.”

Santa Claus is coming to town

SANTA Claus is set to ride through High Wycombe on a reindeer-drawn carriage during the annual Christmas lights switch on this year.

He will be accompanied by stilt walking Christmas trees, fairies and other colourful charcaters during a parade on November 13.

Santa and his helpers will also be joined by a 20-piece Scottish piping band and the High Wycombe sea cadet brass band.

The fun will start early with childrens rides being set up along the High Street and caterers cooking up a festive treat or two in Frogmoor.

The parade will wind its way down the main throughfare to a stage where a countdown to the big switch on will take place.

Plans for the event, which attracts hundreds of people every year, were announced last night at a meeting of the High Wycombe Town Committee.

Light up this Christmas with new ideas

If you own a local business and have ideas about how to make this Christmas a special one for residents, members of the annual Mayerthorpe Lite Up have a job for you.

Members of the group met last Thursday to discuss ideas for this year’s event and to encourage new volunteers and local businesses to help out in making the Lite Up even brighter than last year.

Organizer of the Mayerthorpe Lite Up, Charlotte Arthur, said the group is looking for new businesses to get involved and are already excited to see that a new business has joined in.

“We’re just really wanting to focus on fun, fellowship and shopping,” she said.

“We are trying to get people to come downtown, even if you don’t shop, to get in the spirit and be happy.”

According to Arthur, the Lite Up is a night of many different Christmas specials including a parade, a big bon fire on Main Street and even a visit from one very special person.

“The stores have lots of specials and we usually have a concession,” she explained.

“We have Santa Claus from two different times in the day and evening (so) people can get a pic with Santa for a very reasonable price without having to travel to the city.”

Arthur also said the town can look forward to the delightful sound of Christmas music, playing for the whole month of December.

“You can hear it from the Mini Mart to the hotel,” she said.

A variety of other local businesses will also be participating in the event, Arthur said, so there is so much more for residents to look forward to.

“Uptown Auto does the greeting window (so) if you walk in with a loonie you can write a message on the window (and) the money goes to the food bank,” she said.

“The Treasury Bank (ATB) does a colouring contest (and) kids bring their posters to the night of the Lite Up.”

There will also be a business challenge where local businesses will be judged on how well the outside of their building has been decorated for the Christmas season.

Arthur explained the goal of this year’s Lite Up and how organizers hope to get as many people involved as possible.

“Our main idea and our main focus was to decorate the entrance into town,” she said.

Santa putting children’s information at risk, warn experts

Santa Claus could be breaking privacy laws in his collection and use of data about British children, experts have warned. Yuletide cheer-bringer Claus could be putting the personal data of millions of children at risk.

Data protection laws lay down strict conditions for the use of personal data and there is no evidence that Claus has an adequate compliance programme in place.

Children across Britain who write letters to Claus with a list of gift requests are not told for how long that data is kept, or if it will be used for other purposes such as marketing by third parties.

The Data Protection Act stipulates that data should not be kept for longer than necessary, which would mean 25 December, though Claus may argue that he needs to keep the letters for six years to use in any gift-related lawsuits.

“There is a stream of questions Santa has yet to answer,” said William Malcolm, a data protection specialist at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM. “Is this information used for anything other than present giving? Information passes out of the EU, so does Santa check the letters for unambiguous, specific and informed consent to this overseas transfer?”

OUT-LAW’s attempts to put the questions to Claus were hindered by the lack of an office chimney. Eventually, the questions were put up a domestic chimney but no response was received by time of publication.

The Data Protection Act says that you must inform someone when you are collecting data about them, and tell them what the purpose of collection is.

“What about the naughty/nice database?” said Malcolm. “Are children given notice that behavioural data is being collected about them throughout the year? And does it qualify as covert monitoring, which would breach Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights?”

People can make a subject access request of databases holding their personal information, but the database operator has 40 days in which to respond. Children are now too late, therefore, to find out before Christmas if they are on the naughty or nice section of the system.

Man delights in ‘fanatic’ lights

The 500 extension cords, the 100,000 lights, the 57 flying metal reindeer, the neon nativity scene, the bubble machine, his very own FM transmitter so he can synchronize all this to “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus,” it’s tempting to conclude that Marty Slack is a fanatic. But as he told a reporter for CBS News last December: “I think I’m beyond fanatic. I was fanatic a few years ago.”

Slack has become a Christmas icon in the Salt Lake Valley, where on a typical weekend night in mid-December a thousand cars snake through his neighborhood to get a look at his house at 5631 Whispering Pine Circle. And then last year his fame went global when he won grand prize in the PlanetChristmas Worldwide Decorating Contest. That was in the “over the top” category, in a contest where nearly everyone had multiple inflatable snowmen and programmable lights.

There were thousands of entries from all over the world, says PlanetChristmas founder Chuck Smith of Franklin, Tenn., who decided not to run a 2007 contest because “the people who lost took it very seriously.”

There is no succinct term for people whose hobby is decorating their houses with Christmas lights. Smith has settled, instead, on the word “addict.” In the chat room on his Web site, he says, 6,000 people talk about Christmas 12 months a year.

If there is a typical Christmas lights addict, Smith says, it’s a middle-aged man with extra money to spend and a vivid childhood memory of the one house in his neighborhood that went overboard with decorations.

Marty Slack can still remember the thrill of looking at Christmas lights from the back seat of his parents’ car, and 40 years later he wants to re-create that feeling of enchantment, for himself and everybody else. He is fond of saying that he has often observed tired, ornery people drive up to his house, he imagines them, just minutes before, grumpily trudging through the mall and then they see his display and suddenly they’re smiling.

Slack’s journey began in the early 1990s, the Christmas after he and his wife, Micalle, moved to their split-level. Micalle wanted some Christmas lights, so Marty hung a few strands along the rain gutter which he left until the next Christmas. By then the sun had bleached the reds and greens to white.

And then one thing led to another, he says. One year he built a 40-foot tower of lights, and another year a giant star. He was starting to get his Christmas excitement back. Pretty soon people were stopping to admire his work, which made him want to try even harder. So he added live music in his garage, and in 2003 he figured out how to do a synchronized light show.

Because Slack’s creations can be viewed on his Web site,, he gets letters and e-mail from all over the world. Some want tips for their own decorating. The ones who have seen the house in person thank him for cheering them up. One woman, who had lost both her husband and a son that year, credited Slack’s extravagant, playful display with making her want to keep on living.

But, to tell you the truth, “it’s a lot of work and a lot of money,” says Slack, who is operations battalion chief with the Unified Fire Authority. What most people don’t realize, he says, is that it takes 30 hours just to lay out the extension cords right. And then there are the months he spends figuring out how to program the lights and to line up each blink with a beat of music. One minute of music takes 20 hours of thinking and fiddling. Plus, the lights fade and parts wear out, and before you know it the cost of replacing and expanding adds up to $5,000 a year.

“I look at it this way,” he says. “All my friends have boats and trailers and jet skis. And I have Christmas.”

“Marty can never do anything in moderation,” says his wife. She and their two daughters and son have come into the kitchen on this weekend morning, the day after the official lights-on ceremony, and they all begin to gently rib Slack. He smiles but also looks a little bit hurt.

In the early years of Christmas Utah, before Slack fine-tuned the display, the family had to sit inside the house with the indoor lights out, and if they tried to use the clothes dryer it would overload the circuits. Micalle felt like a hostage in those days. Now the only problem is getting back into the neighborhood if she goes out on an errand. The line of cars waiting to get into Whispering Pine Circle can back up past Vine Street onto 5600 South on the weekends right before Christmas.

The light display is synchronized to music broadcast by Slack on 99.9 FM. The lights are on from 5:15 to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, through the first week of January. That’s more than 200 hours of viewing and even then there have been people who have knocked on the Slacks’ door at midnight, rousing the family from sleep, asking him to turn the lights back on.

“I believe in Santa Claus again”

When Danette Meola’s parents died three weeks apart in 2006, she lost some of her holiday spirit.

But after a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus Thursday night, her faith and Christmas cheer have been restored.

“Honestly, I believe in Santa Claus again,” the 44-year-old mother of two said.
Santa, who bears a strong resemblance to Ed View Jr. of Mohawk, travels around the area visiting homes and children during the Christmas season.

Today, Santa will be going to eight homes with Diane O’Donnell, director of communications for the American Red Cross Mohawk Valley Chapter. At each stop, parents will make a donation to the Red Cross, and Santa will spend time with the children.

“It’s a fun thing to do, and it’s his way of giving back to the Red Cross,” O’Donnell said.

Santa said he tries to spread holiday cheer and explain what the true meaning of “ho, ho, ho” is.

“The ‘H’ stands for help and ‘O’ stands for others,” he said.

Santa said he loves making the holidays a little better for other people.

“I love it,” he said. “I’m a 62-year-old kid.”

Meola said Santa’s visit meant so much to her family.

Santa sat in an oversized maroon recliner in the Meola living room, next to the fireplace. Meola’s children, Kayla Maxam, 7, and Joseph Maxam, 1, and some of Kayla’s friends sat around Santa on the floor while he told stories.

“Every once in a while he just broke out into a Christmas carol,” she said. “It was magical.”

Meola said she can’t remember the point when she stopped believing in Santa, but she will certainly always remember the night she rediscovered her faith in him.

“He just brightened up the holidays for us more than he can imagine,” she said.

Mount Snow hopes to set Santa record

Mount Snow will be jolly this weekend when as many as 500 men and women deck out in snowy white beards, black boots and red suits lined with white fuzz with the goal of breaking the Guinness Book of World Records for most Santa Claus impersonators in one place.

This will be the area’s second attempt to break the record currently held by Liverpool, England, with reportedly 3,400 Santas.

Last year, despite poor weather, 107 Santas showed up to be counted.

This won’t be the only group this weekend trying to break the record. A group in Ireland will try to gather 10,001 Santas on the Walls of Derry on Sunday.

Liverpool attempted to sustain its record, collecting a reported 6,000 Santas last weekend for the Liverpool Santa Dash.

The tough one to beat, though will be Las Vegas, which also held an event last weekend, the Las Vegas Great Santa Run, which reported 7,269 Santas.

Organizer Melissa Husby said the group would do it again next year, hopefully with even more Santas. While this number seems to be the highest yet, Husby said it could take at least six months to hear from Guinness.

Celebrate the Valley, Inc., the event organizers, aren’t expecting to meet these numbers quite yet, but plan to develop a solid base of Santas that come every year to build up to the numbers necessary to win the record.

“Liverpool took five years to get where they are,” marketing coordinator Celeste Dwyer said. “Can you imagine if we beat Liverpool? Little old Vermont? That’s our goal.”

The Santas who do participate will be responsible for putting presents under the trees of local needy families. The money raised from the event benefits the Holiday Giving Tree, which asks local churches and schools to nominate a family in need. More than 65 families this year will be gifted food, clothing and other gifts for the holiday. “The concept is to have something under the tree,” Dwyer said.

Last year the Santas event donated $1,000 to the cause. This year they are aiming to double that.

Another part of the strategy to win the record is by offering perks to participants, including a long list of events on the mountain and in the area all weekend.

Visitors can spend Saturday after the walk participating in a cookie tour, a scavenger hunt or an activity challenge.

As it goes without saying that Santas must feed their cookie craving, 10 local inns will host a cookie tour, where the Santas can go from inn to inn, sampling the homemade delicacies and admiring the holiday decorations.

For Santas looking to slim their figures, the Claus Cup Challenge lets them go to different real estate companies and choose a physical or mental challenge.

Local schoolchildren will also display their gingerbread house handiwork at an exhibit at Memorial Hall, asking visitors to vote for their favorite. The winning house will win the children a pizza party.

Anyone dressed as Santa (they stress that this means full garb) will get a $25 discount on a ski lift ticket and a voucher for $25 off at another time from the ski resort. Many local inns, restaurants and businesses in the Deerfield Valley will be giving discounts to registered Santas as well.

Dutch Santa visits kids

Doris Ingram looks forward to it every year.

So do her children.

“It’s a really Merry Christmas tradition for the children,” said the director of the Ben Donnell day-care facility of Child Care Inc.

Twenty of the day-care’s toddler-aged children were visited Tuesday by none other than Santa Claus himself.

But this wasn’t your granddad’s Santa Claus; this was his Dutch representative, Sinterklaas, who came to the day care with members of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program Dutch detachment.

“This is our way of saying we are part of your community,” said Lt. Col. Willem Van Gaalen, commander of the Dutch detachment at Sheppard Air Force Base.

Gaalen said that in the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas’ Eve is the chief occasion for gift-giving, much like Christmas morning in the United States.

“We call him Sinterklaas, which is really close to Santa Claus,” said Van Gaalen. “The message is the same.”

The Saint Nicholas’ Eve holiday takes place Dec. 5, and usually includes a visit by Sinterklaas who arrives on a white horse with his gold staff in one hand and his big book of names on the other, bringing gifts and holiday cheer to all the children.

Yani Van Santen, a member of the Dutch detachment, said that the age-old tradition behind the visit by Sinterklaas is based on a special birthday celebration.

“The old story is that Santa Claus was bishop and on his birthday he gave presents instead of receiving,” Van Santen said.

And much like the traditional Santa Claus, the children flocked to the white-bearded fellow with the gifts.

“They look forward to this every year,” said Ingram, as a young boy ran up to Sinterklaas to receive his present.

“This present is especially for you,” Sinterklaas said as he shook the boy’s hand.

Ingram pointed out the good relationship that exists between the daycare and the Dutch detachment.

“We give them all the names of the children and they bring the gifts,” she said. “We don’t ask for anything in particular.”

Through the involvement of the Dutch detachment at Sheppard, Sinterklaas has visited the Ben Donnell day care for more than 25 years, bringing gifts and holiday cheer to countless families.

“We have a good relationship with the Ben Donnell day care and its families,” Van Gaalen said. “All the families like it.”

But in the end it is all about the children to Van Gaalen.

“It’s great to see the kid’s faces happy,” he said.

Swedish teacher bans Santa

A Swedish head teacher has decided to take Santa Claus out of Christmas this year, at least for in-school festivities.

“Father Christmas is, after all, based on the Christian St. Nicholas,” Peter Norlin told Blekinge Lans Tidning.

Norlin said all schools in the Brakne-Hoby area in southern Sweden should also avoid overtly Christian services. He plans to preside over his school’s celebration instead of bringing in a Christian minister and to ban any songs featuring Santa Claus.

He cites National Agency for Education guidelines on avoiding favoring any religion in school and making sure children of other faiths are not made uncomfortable. But the agency does not go as far as he does.

“As long as the celebrations focus on the ceremonial aspects, traditions and togetherness, it is up to individual schools to decide what songs they want to sing,” Maria Lilja, a lawyer for the agency, said.

Santa dons sunglasses to hand out presents in Bethlehem

In biblical Bethlehem, Santa makes his rounds in cool shades.

The dark sunglasses are a Palestinian addition to Santa’s traditional garb of red suit and black boots, meant to ensure that children in the tiny, tight-knit Christian community in Jesus’ traditional birthplace don’t recognize the man bringing them presents.

Each year, volunteer Santas fan out across Bethlehem and the nearby West Bank Christian communities of Beit Jalla and Beit Sahour to deliver presents to the homes of children in the community. And for a change after years of conflict, there is a spirit of optimism, with tourism boosted by Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking efforts.

One of this season’s Santas is Khaled Rishmawi, 21, a Greek Orthodox Christian. He said he volunteered “to give back the joy Santa gave me as a child.”

“Every child must feel the joy of Christmas because they don’t have much joy. Their joy is when Santa Claus brings them a present,” he said.

Rishmawi is delivering about 50 presents purchased at Yasmina’s Gift Shop in Beit Sahour, owned by a distant relative, Hana Rishmawi. Popular items include Lego blocks, remote-controlled cars for boys and dolls for girls.

For the shopowner, these are good times. Tourism was ravaged by seven years of fighting between Israel and the Palestinians. But this year, the number of visitors is up following last week’s pledge to resume of peace talks.

In Rishmawi’s shop, families spend up to $50 (€34) on each gift, even if they have to pay in installments.

He said his business grows a little every year, a small miracle considering that Christians are a diminishing minority — just 2 percent of the West Bank’s 2.4 million residents. Economic hardship — the result of years of Israeli-Palestinian conflict — and growing Muslim fervor have fueled the Christian exodus.

In October, 40,000 tourists entered Bethlehem, the highest number in years, in buses passing through a checkpoint gate in the separation barrier. Although tourists don’t stay long — an average of two hours — it’s still one of Bethlehem’s better years since the second Palestinian uprising began in 2000.

“If the politics goes to ruin, tourism goes to ruin,” said George Juha, a local restaurant owner.

This year’s mini-boom has given Hana Rishmawi a dose of holiday cheer, but it also has been a source of stress. For the past 20 years, he dispatched about six Santas to deliver presents to more than 100 children. He said the operation has become so complicated that he’s thinking of scaling back.

Rain wets the presents — and it always seems to rain on Christmas, residents say. It also muddies the roads and causes aging cars to get stuck or break down. Once they reach the children’s houses, Santas are often shooed away because “the children are asleep, can you come back later?”

“It’s a headache,” he sighs.

A tired Hana Rishmawi has already told parents that they can choose between a home-delivered present, or his preference: picking up the gift from a hall decked-out with Christmas decorations, where his son will play cheery music, and a Santa will be on hand to take photos with the kids.

While the red-suited Santa is largely a Western custom, it has become one of the most beloved Christian traditions in the West Bank.

Bernard Sabella, a 62-year-old social activist, said when he was a child, he’d wake up to candied nuts, chocolates and balloons on Christmas.

“When we’d ask where the presents came from, our parents said Baba Noel, but we never saw him,” Sabella said, referring to Santa by his Arabic name. Father Marwan Deidis, 33, had a visit from Santa throughout his childhood Christmases.

Most of Rishmawi’s Santas have been young male relatives, though there have been a few women and Muslims in the bunch.

Santas follow strict rules: They’re expected to ring a hand-held bell, call the children’s names, take a photo, and — occasionally — remove the fake beard and dark sunglasses to reassure teary children that there’s nothing to fear.

The government of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad says it will spend $100,000 (€68,000) decorating Bethlehem and nearby villages — double what rival Hamas spent on the town when it was in power last year.

The prime minister also promised a $1,200 (€820) cash bonus to broke shopkeepers to keep their stores open for the next six months, starting with Christmas season. The arrangement will begin in Bethlehem, and spread to other West Bank towns, said Khuloud Deibas, the tourism minister.

Ho ho ho Santa – you’re sacked

A 70-year-old man working as Santa Claus says he was sacked from a Cairns department store for saying “ho, ho, ho” and singing Christmas carols.

In a case of political correctness seemingly gone mad, retired entertainer John Oakes says he was fired from his job at Myer for his rendition of Santa’s famous laugh.

His employer, Westaff, last month sparked national outrage when it ordered its Santas to say “ha, ha, ha” instead of “ho, ho, ho” because it could be derogatory to women.

Where every day is Christmas

The streets have names like Candy Cane Lane, Christmas Boulevard and Mistletoe Drive.

Bigger-than-life statues of Old Saint Nick and red buildings with green roofs are everywhere.

And the Christmas tree in the lobby at Santa’s Lodge hotel is never taken down.

Welcome to Santa Claus, Ind.

There’s the Silent Night Café, Lake Rudolph Campground and RV Resort, Frosty’s Fun Center Miniature Golf and Arcade and Santa’s Medical Center.

And Crystal Buehler, general curator at the Santa Claus Museum, plays Christmas music year-round.

Every day is Christmas Day in this Southern Indiana burg of 2,200 – a number that has more than doubled since 1990.

“The town oozes holiday spirit,” describes Melissa Miller, executive director of the Spencer County Visitors Bureau. “There are no grinches here.”

Especially now, when residents and businesses put on their holiday best. On Saturday and Sunday , the village stages its annual “Christmas in Santa Claus Festival,” highlighted by Santa’s horse-drawn sleigh ride and parade and a free, 15-mile auto tour through the 12 holiday-themed and lighted neighborhoods of Christmas Lake Village, where many of the town’s residents live.

Settled more than 150 years ago by German immigrants the settlement originally was known as Santa Fe (spelled Santa Fee). But when the town of about 50 applied for a post office in 1856, it had to change its name because there already was a Santa Fe, northeast of Kokomo.

Now, just how the townsfolk settled on the name of Santa Claus has been lost to legend. But the tale Buehler prefers to recite is the one about the town meeting to choose a new name on Christmas Eve in a one-room log church. Allegedly, a brisk winter’s wind blew the door open, and the sound of sleigh bells was heard in the distance. An excited little girl shouted, “It’s Santa Claus!”

Santa Claus, Ind.? Has a nice ring, doesn’t it? Summit over.

Now at its fourth location at the north end of the Kringle Place mall, the world’s only post office bearing the name of Santa Claus receives more than a half-million pieces of mail a year – about 10,000 of them from children addressed to Santa and the rest from adults wanting the Santa Claus, Ind., postmark on their Christmas cards. Every year since postmaster general James Martin did it in 1914, volunteers (they call themselves Santa’s elves) have sent hand-written replies from Santa to the children.

According to postmaster Marina Balbach, the post office usually gets about 13,000 pieces a month.”We do more than that each day during the Christmas season,” she said.

The post-office’s claim to fame has not been without controversy. In 1931, U.S. postmaster Walter F. Brown attempted to force the town to give up its name to ease the load of the mail the post office received around Christmas. But with the support of Robert “Believe It or Not” Ripley, who sent Brown a four-foot wide postcard carrying the Santa Claus post office cancellation, and the Indianapolis News, which asked its readers to send letters of protest to the paper, Santa Claus was saved.

Newspaper clippings chronicling the controversy, plus photos, memorabilia and letters to Santa dating back to the 1930s, fill the Santa Claus Museum, two doors down from the post office. Exhibits in five rooms detail the history of the town and its post office and the evolution of Santa Claus Land to today’s award-winning Holiday World, which draws a million customers a year. There’s a table for children to use to write their letters to Santa.

Visitors approaching the town from the north (Indiana 162 off I-64) will first notice the massive Holiday World complex and its famous wooden coasters dominating the skyline to the west.

Take a right at the junction of Ind. 162 and 245 to follow Christmas Boulevard into town. Veer slightly to the left on 245 and travel a one-tenth mile to the town’s original 22-foot-high Santa statue, dedicated “to the children of the world” in 1935.

The statue sits on a base in the shape of a star, symbolic of the star of Bethlehem. The 40-ton statue is faded and crumbling. A glossy fiberglass replica stands in front of the new Santa Claus Town Hall.

Continue south on Ind. 245 for about a half mile past the old statue to the site of the original downtown Santa Claus, where Santa’s Candy Castle is located. The original Candy Castle, dedicated on Dec. 22, 1935, was one of several buildings in Santa Claus Town, purported to be the nation’s first theme park. Kevin Klosowski restored and re-opened the candy shop and its museum in 2005. The candy shop claims to have the world’s largest selection of candy canes.

The 35-year-old entrepreneur says he “dropped out of corporate America in Chicago” to rebuild and preserve Santa Claus Town, with plans to recreate the Toy Village and Santa’s Workshop for a “whole new generation.”

“I love it here,” said Klosowski. “It’s quiet. It’s safe. It’s friendly. I have three kids 7, 5 and 2 and I have a choice of two four-star schools they can go to. I love the family values here.”

No grinches either.

Towns cautioned to avoid decorations linked to religious themes

When Millville bought new holiday decorations for its downtown, it opted for lighted snowflakes to hang on streetlamps along High Street.

Mayor James Quinn said it was a safe decision, as the snowflakes were a generic, secular decoration that wouldn’t offend anyone who might otherwise raise a legal stink over the city opting for something related to the season’s religious holidays.

But on two corners, the streetlamps have lighted Santas, which are designed to welcome people to the High Street business district. Those seemingly harmless displays have Quinn worried.

“That may be offensive,” he said.

Quinn isn’t alone in worrying about the ramifications of how municipalities decorate for the holidays: The New Jersey State League of Municipalities is warning local governments that the wrong decision can get them into legal trouble.

Citing a number of lawsuits in New Jersey and other states filed by people or organizations opposed to municipalities using any kind of religious decorations for the holidays, league officials say local officials should get a legal opinion if there’s any doubt about what they intend to display on public property.

The league is providing some guidelines, but there’s a still a lot of potential problems because “the law remains unsettled in this area,” according to league Executive Director William Dressel.

“Municipal holiday displays that are limited to more secular images, like Santa Claus and Christmas trees, are likely to survive constitutional scrutiny,” he said. “However, it is still unclear under what circumstances more religious symbols, like creches, menorahs, or in related cases, copies of the Ten Commandments, may be displayed by a municipality or on municipal property. It is hard to formulate any set of rules to ensure that a given display is constitutionally permissible if it has any religious symbols in it.”

The fear of a lawsuit has municipalities going more generic and less extravagant on holiday decorations during the season when Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa all converge. Some organizations and people believe decorations linked with those events are offensive and don’t belong on public property.

In the past decade, New Jersey courts have ruled on several lawsuits stemming from how municipalities decorated for the holidays. League officials say the outcome of those cases varied and were based on everything from what message the decorations were intended to give to the court determining whether the plaintiffs had enough exposure to the display to be truly offended.

Municipal decorations are now more generic. Gone are years when creches, or Nativity scenes, were set out in front of Wildwood’s municipal building, and signs saying “Merry Christmas” were common outside of municipal buildings.

Ocean City Director of Community Services Mike Dattilo said the resort’s decorations are now very broad: There are white lights on streetlamps and a tree in front of City Hall. A giant card on the front lawn of the municipal building is designed for “the season in general.”

Egg Harbor Township workers Monday put a wreath on the doors of the municipal building. That will be joined by a lighted tree.

Township Administrator Peter Miller said the decorations are part of decision by township officials to keep the display “seasonal and not religious.”

“Elected officials didn’t feel strong about having a religious theme,” he said.

Linwood will decorate City Hall as it has for the past several years: An electronic Santa Claus will waves to passers-by. There will also be a dreidel.

Linwood Public Works Superintendent Hank Kolakowski said the city feels safe in using the Santa Claus and dreidel decoration because nobody has complained about them.

“Everybody seems to be pleased,” he said.

League officials acknowledge that not everyone will be pleased, and some people will pressure local governments to include religious themes on the argument that not doing them violates free speech provisions of the First Amendment.

Giving in to that argument could be dangerous, league officials argue.

“There is a real danger to the municipality accepting that argument, since that would effectively render the area where the holiday display is placed a public forum,” Dressel said.

“Once that occurs, it will be extremely difficult to prevent other displays that individuals or groups wish to see at that location in order to convey their particular message. That could include groups or individuals who want to put up signs for political candidates, advocate a particular political position or advocate on any side of such controversial issues as abortion, racial diversity, war and peace, etc.”

Santa supplier starts a trend

It’s a holiday tradition — the annual photo with Santa, a professionally made memento of the season.

In fact, the tradition started in Puget Sound.

It was in 1943 that Art French, a Seattle sports photographer with an office across from the Fredrick and Nelson’s department store, decided it was a good idea to capture the meeting of Santa Claus on film. French’s company, Arthur and Associates, claims to have launched the longest running Christmas tradition in the country.

In 1992, after the closing of Fredrick and Nelson’s, the company began sending out Santas to malls across the Puget Sound region, including the The Commons mall in Federal Way.

Not just anyone can be Santa’s photographic stand-in, though. It takes a special breed and special training.

“We run a Santa University,” said “head elf” Hillard Viydo. “We remind them of the names of the reindeer, to never promise anything but to never say no, and (to have) good listening skills. For the individual who portrays the character, it’s a real passion.”

Many of the Kris Kringle impersonators are retired teachers, like Bill Fischer and Einer Thomsen, or Santa Bill and Santa Einer as they are referred to, respectively.

Santa Bill has been working at The Commons mall for 15 seasons as Santa after a friend at Arthur and Associates referred him.

Over the years, Santa Bill has picked up a few tricks for dealing with those children who are less than enthused about their Santa encounter. A soft voice and eye contact usually works for him.

“I’m a people person, a retired teacher, so I’ve been around kids my whole life,” Santa Bill said. “I like the age group, seeing their eyes light up, watch them think and come up with what’s really important. I really enjoy seeing the happiness of the children and the parents.”

Of course there are those occasional kids who act up and pull Santa’s beard. Santa Bill, like almost all of Arthur and Associates’ Santas, doesn’t use a theatrical beard anymore.

This was not a company-ordered change. During the mid-1990s, the Santas began this change on their own, bypassing the professionally-coiffured yak hair beards that the company offered for their own natural beards.

Santa Bill starts growing his beard out in August to get the full beard by the holiday season.

Santa Einer starts growing his beard just a bit earlier, in July, and has been a Santa for 14 years, starting after his retirement from teaching.

“I’ve learned to use a nice quiet voice for the little ones that don’t want to talk to you,” Santa Einer said. “I’ll lean down and talk to them and in a couple of minutes, I’ve got them in my lap.”

A relative Santa newbie, Oscar Peterson is only in his second year at Arthur and Associates. He has been doing Santa jobs for six or seven years, starting after his wife gave him a Santa Claus suit for his birthday, Dec. 22.

“It’s delightful to talk to the little kids and parents,” Santa Oscar said. “Even some big kids come by, those in their 20s, and that’s kinda neat.”

Santa Oscar admits there are just some kids who aren’t going to like seeing Santa up close and personal.

“There are those that are crying and nothing is going to stop them so sometimes you try bringing them back several times and that usually works,” Santa Oscar said. “Usually there are problems with kids 15 months to 3 years.”

Santa Oscar’s work often follows him home though.

“I have to avoid wearing red during September through November,” Santa Oscar said, who lets his natural inch-long beard start growing out in July. “Once though, I was in a museum in Kentucky and one little kid kept coming over. I didn’t even have a full beard at the time.”

For many families, the Santa photo is a family tradition, one that doesn’t change with the age of the kids. Oftentimes when college kids come home, mom will send them to get their picture taken with Santa, Santa Bill said. Or whole families will often come on Christmas Eve — large families of 15-20 — and get one big photo taken.

And for those kids who cry, these Santas know just the trick.

Going on the offensive

The holiday season is here, so it’s time to engage in the time-honored Christmas tradition of objecting to every time-honored Christmas tradition. Australia is a gazillion time-zones ahead of the United States — it may even be Boxing Day there already — so they got in first this year with a truly fantastic headline: “Santas warned ‘ho ho ho’ offensive to women.”

Really. As the story continued: “Sydney’s Santa Clauses have instead been instructed to say ‘ha ha ha’ instead, the Daily Telegraph reported. One disgruntled Santa told the newspaper a recruitment firm warned him not to use ‘ho ho ho’ because it could frighten children and was too close to a ‘ho,’ U.S. slang term for prostitute.”

If I were a female resident of Sydney, I think I would be more offended by the assumption Australian women and U.S. prostitutes are that easily confused. As the old gangsta-rap vaudeville routine used to go: “Who was that ho I saw you with last night?” “That was no ho, that was my bitch.”

But the point is the right not to be offended is now the most sacred right in the world. The right to freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of movement, all are as nothing compared to the universal right to freedom from offense. It’s surely only a matter of time before “sensitivity training” is matched by equally rigorous “inoffensiveness training” courses.

A musician friend of mine once took a gig at an elevator-music session, and, after an hour or two of playing insipid orchestral arrangements of “Moon River” and “Windmills Of Your Mind,” some of the lads’ attention would start to wander and they would toot their horns a little too boisterously, and the conductor would stop and admonish them to bland things down a bit. In a world in which everyone is ready to take offense, it’s hard to keep the mood Muzak evenly modulated.

For example, when I said the right not to be offended is now the most “sacred” right in the world, I certainly didn’t mean to offend persons of a nontheistic persuasion. In Hanover, N.H., home to Dartmouth College, an atheist and an agnostic known only as “Jan and Pat Doe” (which is which is hard to say) are suing because their three schoolchildren are forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Well, OK. They’re not forced to say it. The Pledge is voluntary. You’re allowed to sit down, or, more discreetly, stand silently, which is what the taciturn Yankee menfolk who think it’s uncool to sing do during the hymns at my local church. But that’s not enough for “the Does.” Because the Pledge mentions God, their children are forced, as it were, not to say it. And, as “Mr and Mrs Doe” put it in their complaint, having to opt out of participation in a voluntary act exposes their children to potential “peer pressure” from the other students.

U.S. courts have not traditionally been sympathetic to this argument. The American Civil Liberties Union and other litigious types might more profitably explore the line that the Pledge is deeply offensive to millions of illegal aliens in the public school system forced to pledge allegiance to the flag of a country they’re not citizens or even legally admitted tourists of.

Let us now cross from the New Hampshire school system to the Sudanese school system. Or as the Associated Press headline put it: “Thousands in Sudan call for British teddy bear teacher’s execution.”

Last week, Gillian Gibbons, a British schoolteacher working in Khartoum, one of the crummiest basket-case dumps on the planet — whoops, I mean one of the most lively and vibrant strands in the rich tapestry of our multicultural world. Anyway, Mrs. Gibbons was sentenced last week to 15 days in jail because she was guilty of, er, allowing a teddy bear to be named “Mohammed.” She wasn’t so foolish as to name the teddy Mohammed herself. But, in an ill-advised Sudanese foray into democracy, she let her grade-school students vote on what name they wanted to give the classroom teddy, and as good Muslims they voted for their favorite name: Mohammed.

Big mistake. There’s apparently a whole section in the Koran about how if you name cuddly toys after the Prophet you have to be decapitated. Well, actually there isn’t. But why let theological pedantry deprive you of the opportunity to stick it to the infidel?

Mrs. Gibbons is regarded as lucky to get 15 days in jail, when the court could have imposed six months and 40 lashes. But even that wouldn’t have been good enough for the mob in Khartoum. The protesters shouted “No tolerance. Execution” and “Kill her. Kill her by firing squad” and “Shame, shame to the U.K.” — which persists in sending out imperialist schoolma’ams to impose idolatrous teddy bears on the youth of Sudan.

Whether the British are best placed to defend Mrs Gibbons is itself questionable after a U.K. court decision this week: Following an altercation with another driver, Michael Forsythe was given a suspended sentence of 10 weeks in jail for “racially aggravated disorderly behavior” for calling Lorna Steele an “English bitch.” “Racially aggravated”? Indeed. Ms. Steele is not English, but Welsh.

Still, at exactly the time Gillian Gibbons caught the eye of the Sudanese authorities, a 19-year-old Saudi woman was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in jail. Her crime? She had been abducted and gang-raped by seven men. Originally, she was sentenced to 90 lashes, but her lawyer appealed and so the court increased it to 200 and jail time. Anyone on the streets in Sudan or anywhere else in the Muslim world who wants to protest that? Cue crickets chirping “Allahu akbar.”

East is East and West is West and in both we take offense at nothing: Santas saying “Ho ho ho,” teddy bears called Mohammed. And yet the difference is very telling: The now annual Santa suits in the “war on Christmas” and the determination to abolish even such anodyne expressions of faith as the Pledge of Allegiance are assaults on the very possibility of a common culture. By contrast, the teddy bear rubbish is a crude demonstration of cultural muscle intended to cow and intimidate.

When East meets West, when offended Muslims find themselves operating in Western nations, they discover that both techniques are useful: Some march in the streets Khartoum-style calling for the pope to be beheaded, others use the mechanisms of the West’s litigious, perpetual grievance culture to harass opponents into silence.

Perhaps somewhere in Sydney there is a woman who’s genuinely offended by hearing Santa say “ho ho ho” just as those Hanover atheists claim to be genuinely offended by the Pledge of Allegiance. But their complaints are frivolous and decadent, and more determined groups use the patterns they’ve set to shut down debate on things we should be talking about. The ability to give and take offence is what separates free societies from Sudan.

Experts say Santa should move to Kyrgyzstan

Forget the North Pole.

Santa Claus and his elves should set up shop in Kyrgyzstan to optimize the delivery of Christmas gifts to 2.5 billion homes worldwide.

That’s according to Swedish engineering consulting firm SWECO, which calculated Santa’s optimal journey based on a range of factors from the Earth’s rotation to which areas of the planet are most densely populated.

The perfect location, SWECO found, is in the mountains of the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan, near the border with Kazakhstan.

“By starting his journey there, Santa can achieve the most efficient around-the-world trip to distribute Christmas gifts,” SWECO said Tuesday. “He can eliminate time-consuming detours and avoid subjecting his reindeer to undue strain.”

SWECO said Santa could reach every home on the globe from that location in 48 hours — providing his sleigh can maintain an average speed of about 21 million kph (13 million mph) and that each stop takes no more than 34 microseconds. A microsecond is one-millionth of a second.

“That is probably why we’re never able to see Santa, because he is just so super fast,” SWECO consultant Johan Larsson said.