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An Open Letter to Santa About NORAD Tracker and The History of Christmas


With Christmas 2010 just a few days away, the whereabouts of Santa Claus will be on many youngsters' minds. They will be able to track him through the Santa NORAD Tracker starting tomorrow on Christmas Eve.


Children wrote letters to Santa Claus back in the day.  These days young people text, and tweet the big guy or message him on his NORAD Facebook page.  In whatever manner the message below got to him, my hope is that when you read it images of family members, friends, or even yourself, will be found between the lines. 


Dear Santa,                                                                                                                          

(I used spell-check and had a high school friend look this over before I posted it on your page.  Cool profile pic of you and Mrs. Claus by the way.) 

Last week my elementary school teacher taught us about the NORAD Santa Tracker.  As I'm typing this, I'm looking at the notes I took in class to make sure that I get everything right.  Anyway, my teacher said that NORAD stands for the North American Aerospace Defense Command.  She said that NORAD allows the United States and Canada to work together to protect our skies.  Canada is where my cousin Danny lives now, but you already knew that.

I wasn't sure if you knew this, but our teacher said that NORAD tracks you on Christmas Eve!  The day after we learned that, my friend Jake told us that his Dad thinks

Mrs. Claus is probably using NORAD to keep an eye on you.  I later asked Dave's Dad why he thought that, but he wouldn't say.  If Mrs. Claus is using NORAD, maybe she just wants to know that you're safe.  Sometimes my Mom sends me a text message, when I'm at my friend Amy's house, to see if I'm okay and to tell me what time dinner is. 

Mrs. Kevelson said that this all started in 1955, after the wrong phone number was printed in a Sears and Roebuck Christmas advertisement.  Instead of reaching Santa, kids actually got through to the Continental Defense Command.  After getting tons of calls, Colonel Harry Shoup had his staff use radar  to tell kids where Santa was.  Mistakes happen with phones all the time.  A few weeks ago I called my friend Kelly, instead of my friend Jenny, because I hit the wrong speed dial number on my cell.  Kelly talks a lot, so it took awhile to get off the phone with her. 

I hope I'm not prying, but who was Santa before you?  I'm thinking maybe your Dad owned the family business before you took over for him.  My friend Keith's parents own a restaurant.  If I'm right, then you must have a son named Nick who is going to take over for you someday.  How old is he?

Lying in bed, waiting to hear your sled on my roof are the longest hours of the year.  Hopefully, Mom and Dad let you know about all of the good things I did this year Santa.  Oh yeah, about your sled, my friend Mike and I want to know how your reindeer stay in shape when they only work one day a year?  

Last week in class Mrs. Kevelson taught us about the origin and history of Christmas.  In the fourth century, since there was no evidence about the date Jesus was born on, Pope Julius (I) had his staff check into things. After they did that, he was told that December 25th  could be set as Jesus' birthday and he decided to make it a holiday.  When is your birthday?  If you let me know, I'll send you a gift. 

Mrs. Kevelson taught us that Christmas wasn't originally celebrated in America.  It was outlawed in Boston from 1659 through 1681.  But, in Jamestown, Captain John Smith said that it was celebrated by everyone.  Later, after we beat England in the Revolutionary War, many new people came to this country.  So many of them began to celebrate Christmas each year, that the government declared it a Federal holiday in 1870.   

I did some research on the internet about you after learning about Christmas.  Just like George Washington, you are THE MAN!  I typed a story on the laptop in my classroom and posted it on my school web page if you want to see it.  Kelly was aside of me, so it took awhile. 

When I did that research, I found illustrations of a whole bunch of guys who look just like you.  I think that is because they are related to you, on your Dad's side of the family, way back in time. 

Odin was a German god who rode an eight-legged horse through the sky, kind of like your reindeer.  Nicholas of Myra, a bishop in 4th century Greece, was famous for his gifts to the poor.  He was later  named Saint Nicholas.  Plus, there was a man in the Netherlands and Belgium called Sinter Klass.  If I'm right, your family really moved around a lot. 

Well, take care Santa.  It's late and you know whey I have to get to bed tonight.  Thank you for always remembering my family, my friends, and me.  We will never forget you.

                                                                                                                                    Your friend,



The letter above, from an old “friend” of mine, was to Santa.  The message below is to all of you from me.

Auld Lang Syne (One translation – Days Gone By)

We should be happy when everyone can celebrate their own holidays, because that likely means our own beliefs are being respected.  When we are opposed to other people, for whatever our reasons, we should not be surprised when others stand against us. 

I have celebrated Christmas with many different types of people over the course of my entire life.  All people, of any background, are not naïve for adhering to their philosophies.  By tracking and later sharing the tradition of common sense values, we all move together through the anxious night and into an anticipated new morning.               

Best wishes to everyone, everywhere.

Contact Sean O'Brien at sobrien@philly2philly.com