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Santa has begun his annual gift-giving marathon, according to the folks at NORAD who track him for anxious little eyes. While he starts from the North Pole, when the last gift has been deposited he picks up Mrs. Claus and they head for Hawaii for well-earned rest and recuperation.
The giant figures of Santa and Mrs. Claus reside outside Honolulu’s City Hall each year, part of the Honolulu City Lights display. In Hawaii, they’re called “Shaka Santa” and “Tutu Mele” — Santa waves the “shaka” sign while his wife relaxes in a red muumuu and kukui nut lei. Both are dipping their toes into a warm stream, the North Pole snow but a distant memory. They symbolize not only Christmas, but the way that Hawaii mingles cultures while retaining every celebration. Many of those enjoying the city lights and exchanging gifts are not Christian, but are celebrating the season of good will, nonetheless.
It was that sort of goodwill that started the NORAD Santa-tracking, as well. I remember being convinced for one year longer than I probably should have that Santa was real because the TV news showed the progress of his sleigh. We lived in western Kansas, and I knew that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was headquartered in nearby Colorado Springs. What I didn’t know, is that the Santa-tracking began as the result of a newspaper misprint and a kind heart.
In 1955, an ad for Sears Roebuck in Colorado Springs misprinted the number for a Santa hotline. The calls went instead to the direct line of a military director of operations at NORAD. When a small voice asked if he was really Santa, he didn’t hang up – he used his tracking equipment to give children Santa’s location. It’s a tradition that continues, now using Twitter, Google earth, You Tube and telephone apps.
Others may differ, but I believe the Santa story celebrates youthful hope calling forth a response of kindness, love and giving that makes this a season of joy for all. Mele Kalikimaka!