- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 23, 2001

The time has come to get ready for the mighty "ho, ho, ho" from the jolly fat man in the red suit. With the big night only one day away, Santa Claus has put the elves on overtime, and the reindeer have doubled up on the limbering exercises in preparation for delivering presents to boys and girls around the world.

Of course, Santa Claus knows each child cannot possibly visit him during his time off. So he asked a multimedia company from his area to create an Internet television channel just for him. Hey, even an old man can be interested in new technology, and who could refuse a simple request from Santa?

Santa Television

Site address: www.santatelevision.com


New media company Joulupukki TV Ltd. ("Joulupukki" means Santa Claus or Father Christmas in Finnish) developed the site. It is based in the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland.

Creator quotable:

"We created this site because we wanted to create a fun site for children and families where they could experience the magic of Lapland. We wanted to combine the beautiful reality, the nature of Lapland, where Santa Claus lives, with the fairy tale of him," says Bernard Giry, chief executive of Joulupukki TV (www.joulupukkitv.com).

Word from the Webwise:

Anyone who does not believe in Santa Claus will change his or her mind after visiting this broadband wonderland. Just imagine a news station devoted to the bearded legend. With a click of the mouse, use of the RealPlayer plug-in and a speedy Internet connection, Christmas becomes a bit more real.

The site (which has English, Japanese and Finnish translations) concentrates on the living lore of Santa, his helpers, the holiday in numerous locales, fantastic phenomena, religious celebrations and cool vacation spots. The simple-to-use interface presents seven sections "Elf Adventures," "Christmas Around the World," "Santa's Foods," "Magical Lapland," "Santa Claus," "Northern Lights" and "Family Destinations" to visit. Most lead to a 3-by-4-inch video screen.

Numerous photos of reindeer, hilarious elfin types and Christmas facts surround the colorful video vignettes, which range in length from 30 seconds to three minutes. Many of the pages also have printable counterparts to let visitors take plenty away from the enjoyable experience.

Under the "Santa Claus" section alone, visitors will find 10 clips that reveal such tidbits as how Santa ended up in Lapland, his connection to Father Frost, his favorite toys and what he does during the summertime. There is even a chance to peek into the Claus kitchen as Santa prepares gingerbread cookies. The production looks great, the sound is crisp, and everything looks exceptionally authentic just what one would expect from St. Nick.

Other videos worth a peak include a "Polish Christmas Song," (in Polish), a quick tour of the Toy Museum of Nuremberg and a look at bears and reindeer in Lapland.

Ease of use:

This dandy cyber-destination needs the latest version of RealPlayer, a current browser and at least a 56k connection to work. Additionally, Santa Television offers a full list of instructions for working with the site, found under the "Help" link.

Don't miss:

A silly story featuring Rufus the elf can be found in episodes under "Elf Adventures." To become one of Santa's helpers, Rufus must pass a few tests with the help of his pal Elmo. This narcoleptic elf must traverse the countryside on cross-country skis to find the five red caps hidden in Santa's magic forest. Each Friday a new episode appears, giving visitors a reason to revisit the site.

Family activity:

Finally, a place to find some authentic Polish grub. The entire section of "Santa's Foods" is devoted to showing how to prepare numerous meals, ranging from the preparation of borscht to traditional Polish Christmas carp to a Finnish favorite, carrot casserole. Text recipes accompany the videos to create a great "how to" package.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

The site easily could have been just an ode to Santa, but the section on the northern lights, which includes a computer simulation as well as an explanation of the phenomena, plus the multiple historical angles of the holidays offered make this an educational and entertaining stop for the little ones.

Parents should be aware that a bunch of advertising (mostly for Finnish companies) appears on the site, in both annoying banner ads and some tourism or product videos.

Overall grade: A

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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