- Associated Press - Thursday, December 23, 2010

PHILADELPHIA | He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, and he knows how many followers you have on Twitter.

Not long ago, there were two ways to tell Santa Claus what you wanted for Christmas: Sitting on his lap or writing a letter. Now, like with just about everything else, St. Nick is available by text or e-mail, Twitter or Facebook. Children can watch his worldwide journey online or take a phone call.

Santa Claus is truly everywhere. And just as unfettered access sometimes tempts adults to lose their cool on e-mail listservs or Facebook comments, spoiled children can be tempted to flame out on Santa.

“Some people have texted Santa that aren’t so happy with Santa,” said Drew Olanoff, who plays Santa on a text-messaging system. “They’ve been a little rude. I’ve let them know that would be considered bad behavior. You really shouldn’t talk to Santa like that.”

The increased use of electronic services to reach Santa Claus reflects another reality of life outside the North Pole. Some major post offices, including in Philadelphia, say they’re handling far less mail directed to the jolly old elf. Chicago has handled about 10,000 letters to Santa this year, down from 15,000 to 20,000 in 2009.

So tech services are finding that they can get a promotional boost from Kriss Kringle without renting a red suit and a white beard. Most of them are in their first few years and use the gimmicks to show the power of their technologies.

Portable North Pole, a project launched by Montreal-based Web video developer UgroupMedia, sends children personalized videos from Santa - even those who deserve lumps of coal. Tell the site your child hasn’t been so good, and the video Santa peers over his glasses and says: “You’re on my naughty watch.”

Another site, TextSanta.net, expects to send close to 100,000 texts this year.

T.J. Kirgin Jr., CEO of the 2-year-old texting operation and leader of an advertising firm in St. Charles, Mo., said the idea is to be greener - not generating all those paper letters - and to raise money for charity. From every $3.99 text, $1 is donated to the March of Dimes.

Mr. Kirgin said it’s a thrill for children to hear from Santa.

“One parent said [his son] was so excited that he got a text message from Santa that he actually peed his pants,” Mr. Kirgin said. The child then feared that Santa would be upset at him for not being a “big boy.”

The parents had Santa send another text to tell him it was OK.

Sue Wangler, a grandmother who lives in Maryland Heights, Mo., has been using the service to have Santa send texts to her granddaughter and some other young friends for three years.

She said the messages are helpful for her granddaughter and a close friend, both 9, who have been wondering whether Santa is real. “This text from Santa has prolonged the belief system a little longer,” she said.

Gogii, a mobile application development firm in Marina del Rey, Calif., for which Mr. Olanoff plays Santa, has an irreverent take on children’s Christmas lists. Mr. Olanoff posts some requests on his blog at textingsantaclaus.com, along with some cheeky responses.

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