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Keeping Santa Traditions Alive With New Technologies

“I’m not sure if I believe in Santa Claus. But I do believe in the UPS guy,” my younger son confided to me last year, when he was 6. 

Drat! I said silently, though I knew I only had myself to blame. While I have put a lot of PR effort on behalf of the tooth fairy – writing long, detailed letters from ‘Toothy’ to place under his pillow along with a gift every time he or his brother lose another chomper – my wife and I always found ourselves too busy during the holiday season to keep up on the Kris Kringle front.

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Movies like this don’t help my cause at all. 
Contrast that with a mom friend of ours, Jen. Growing up in a very small town in eastern Canada, she claims she believed in Santa Claus until SHE WAS 12. With her 3 boys, she’s going all out every year to keep the Santa Claus story alive as long as possible. Maybe because I’m a clueless sitcom TV dad, but all of these were new to me.

For one, Jen’s put an Elf on the Shelf in each of her son’s rooms. Brought out by parents after Thanksgiving, these elves sit and watch if kids are naughty or nice, acording to the accompanying storybook. They then disappear right before Christmas Eve, supposedly to return to the North Pole and report back to Santa what presents you deserve. A great Behavior Modification arrow in the parental quiver, albeit only for one month a year.

Jen also turned us onto the Web site, Portable North Pole. Enter your child’s first name and answer a questions about whether he’s been good or bad, and the site will display a personalized video message from Santa to him or her. There’s also Santa Claus Live, with its ‘live’ streaming video from Santa’s workshop.

Here’s one I had heard of, since it was around when I was a kid: the venerable NORAD Tracks Santa program. Now in its 57th year, NORAD Tracks still regularly tops lists of the best Santa Claus programs around. Last year, more than 100,000 children called the toll-free 1-877-HI-NORAD line (719-556-5211 for callers outside of the U.S.) to track Santa’s sleigh around the world. 

Some things are new at NORAD this year. Kids can track Santa’s progress via Microsoft Bing maps, iPhone or Android device, and even Twitter at @NORADSanta.

But it’s nice that NORAD is sticking with its traditions, too. This year, there will be more than 1,200 volunteer trackers manning the phone lines, starting at 4 am Mountain Time on December 24th through early morning December 25th. To handle all of the kids calling in, they’re relying on a cutting-edge Avaya Aura unified communications and contact center used by the NORAD operations center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado and certified by the Department of Defense.

I know I’ll be having my sons call in this year. To soften up my already-skeptical 7-year old, I even plan to shown him this Youtube video of the NORAD commander having a videoconference with Santa Claus himself.

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And last step – I’m putting a note on the front door to tell the UPS guy to hide all of the deliveries at the side door. Not bad for a doofus TV dad, huh?

Eric Lai is the former Editorial Director at Avaya. He joined Avaya in Nov 2012 from SAP, where his enterprise mobility blog attracted more than 100,000 readers a month and was awarded Top Corporate Blog by BtoB Magazine. Prior to SAP, Eric was a technology editor and reporter for a decade and a half in Asia and the U.S. Follow him on Twitter @ericylai. more

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