It was an incredible Christmas Day. After returning to the North Pole Village, we had a huge Christmas Day meal and celebration. Every year I make an individual gift for each person (and reindeer) at North Pole and present it to them. Everyone puts in so much time and effort to make the kids happy, it is a simple way to say thank you. Everyone else exchanges gifts as well. And then we close the day with a Christmas service at the church. It was wonderful. By 11pm, I was sacked out.
I slept until after noon today. I was completely worn out. Mrs. Claus and I went for a walk around the Village this evening before dinner. All the shops and everything were closed. We only saw a handful of people out. Most everyone was sleeping in. It was very relaxing to walk through the quiet village with a light snow falling. Because it is so much fun, I often don't realize how stressed and worn out I get until the day after. It sure was nice to know that I didn' t have to do anything or be anywhere today.
Mrs. Claus and I will head out on vacation tomorrow morning. We're going to Hawaii. After a month there, we'll vacation around the world for a couple of more months. I'm not sure yet where all we'll go. Then it'll be back to work in April. It will be typical 8am-6pm, Mon-Fri hours up until Thanksgiving, then we'll start all over again. It will be crazy tomorrow at the Flight Operations Center as practically everyone will be flying out tomorrow to begin their vacations. Only a skeleton crew remains at the North Pole during the Jan-Mar time period; and they all seem to head out on the 27th so they can be at their vacation destination by New Years Day.
Well... I'm outta here. It was a great Christmas season. I hope you had as much fun as I did and find the new year safe and joyful.
I will wait to see what kind of response I have from all of you to determine whether or not I'll keep my blog up and running during the "off-season". I'd like to keep it going but only if I hear from you that it makes sense. I'll watch for responses and pick up on January 2nd if there is enough demand.
Happy New Year.
Monday, December 26, 2005
It was an incredible Christmas Day. After returning to the North Pole Village, we had a huge Christmas Day meal and celebration. Every year I make an individual gift for each person (and reindeer) at North Pole and present it to them. Everyone puts in so much time and effort to make the kids happy, it is a simple way to say thank you. Everyone else exchanges gifts as well. And then we close the day with a Christmas service at the church. It was wonderful. By 11pm, I was sacked out.
Sunday, December 25, 2005
...and to all a Good Night!
The last presents have been delivered, the last cookie eaten, the last glass of milk consumed, and the last stocking filled. Once we get the "all clear" signal from the North Pole Command Center, we'll point the sleigh due north and return home. I hope everyone has had as much fun this Christmas Eve as I have had tonight. Tomorrow is going to be the best Christmas ever!
Good night, all! I will not update my log until late tomorrow night.
"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins." - Matthew 1:21
I am currently in the Seattle area. I'll be travelling south down the coast over the next couple of hours, working my way to South America before heading over the Pacific. The reindeer team continues to be strong despite some heavy headwinds earlier this evening over central Canada. Rudolph wants to extend a thank you on behalf of the entire Reindeer team for all the reindeer snacks (carrots, apples, dry dog food, etc.).
Saturday, December 24, 2005
I am currently in US Airspace and enjoying the escort of two fighter jets, courtesy of NORAD and the USAF. We are finishing up our deliveries just outside Lincoln, Nebraska and shortly will head to our next Replenishment Center in northwest Nebraska.
The night has gone well though we are about 6 minutes behind schedule. We had a little confusion regarding the flight plan crossing the Atlantic. As a result, a couple of jumbo jets on trans-Atlantic routes had to be diverted.
Mrs. Claus and the North Pole team have confirmed a 100% delivery rate for Asia and the Pacific countries now that all children in that region have recieved their deliveries. The North Pole Command Center also reports that as children are starting to awaken across Europe, the call center lines are starting to light up and the positive reports are flowing in.
Kids west of the Rockies in North America and all of South America, please be on alert that I will be arriving at your location shortly. Time to go to bed.
We are now in Italian air space. We left Rome a few minutes ago. It is a cold and clear night. It is particularly cold up here. I have a thermos of Starbucks Christmas Blend to keep me going though.
We are making good time. I regret to say though that I have had several real-time updates to the naughty and nice on-board database. About 10 addresses have been removed from my list of places to stop. Kids - please make sure you are behaving your parents today.
I am currently at a Replenishment Center in Eygpt. Due to security reasons, the exact location must remain undisclosed. As the sleigh is being re-loaded, I'm taking a very brief break to update my web log. The reindeer have been showered and are eating before resuming flight.
It has been a great trip so far across much of Asia, Australia, Africa, and the Middle East. I have gone largely undetected so far, which has allowed me to remain on schedule. The one exception was in Osaka, Japan. I was startled by a little boy and girl while putting presents under their tree. It is rare that happens. Typically, the elves in the sleigh monitor the house and notify me over my wireless communications headset of any mevement. Jolly and Peter, the two elves travelling with me today, were distracted at the time by the sleigh beginning to slide off the roof. Fortunately they were able to prevent the fall but they did not see the two kids get out of bed. It was good though as I was able to chat with little Iicihiro and Tomomi while I had the snack they had left out. Despite the surprise and the sliding sleigh, we were able to leave there only 1 minute behind schedule. By the time we hit the first replenishment point, we were back on track.
Jolly tells me the sleigh is loaded and its time to get back in the air. Merry Christmas, All! I will update you soon.
The sleigh is currently being replenished. I'm a few kilometers outside of Nepal at Replenishment Center #1. So far, the trip has gone well as I'm traveling across Asia. We are right on schedule. Comet wants everyone to know that he feels good and he's ready for a long day of flying.
I'll have more time at my next replenishment stop so I'll bring you up to speed on some of the events so far this evening. MERRY CHRISTMAS!
The sleigh is loaded and on the pad. All other orders are at their respective Replenishment Centers. The flight plan is confirmed. The reindeer are hitched to the sleigh. I am now on-board the sleigh and communicating my messages to this web-page via satellite communications.
We are "All Systems Go" for lift-off. You can track my progress at www.santanorad.org. I will also write periodic updates when I have the opportunity.
The final "Naughty and Nice" report is in. We ended up with a record percentage of "nice" children this year. Tonight will represent a record number of stops for me. It is important for you to know that while the final "Naughty and Nice" report has been run, parents can text message, email, or place a toll-free call to Mrs. Claus & the North Pole Operations team to report any misbehaviour that may change your naughty or nice status. Via satellite communications, my on-board database of naughty and nice kids is updated realtime and the flight plan is automatically altered to add or subtract stops for me. So you better watch-out.... Santa Claus is coming to town.
I just returned to my office here at HQ. I have a "naughty & nice" debrief scheduled in about half an hour but I just returned from having our traditional breakfast with the reindeer team at the Lodge. The full team was awake and beginning their carbo-loading. They were all in good spirits. Comet's health was assessed by the medical team before breakfast. He was released to fly tonight. We will have a full team ready to go.
"Now Dasher! now Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen! On Comet! on Cupid! on Donder and Blitzen!"
This is my FAVORITE day of the year! It is just after midnight on Saturday, December 24th. Operation Christmas Eve is now fully underway. The entire North Pole crew is in full gear for the next 24+ hours. Many - myself, Mrs. Claus, and the senior elf staff included- started around 4am this morning and we'll just work all the way through. Close to 48 hours of no sleep. But we are powered by pure, high-octane Christmas Spirit.
I am about to walk over to the sled inspection. The reindeer are sleeping right now but will be awakened in about 4 hours to eat the big carbo-loading breakfast and begin their preparations. I am feeling healthy - no flu bug - and I'm ready to go!
I'll be updating my log periodically today. You can also track my progress today at www.santanorad.org
Friday, December 23, 2005
4am wake-up call. I knew when the alarm went off that we were in the home stretch. It's 24 hours a day right through the final delivery. What a wonderful time! I was still feeling a little under the weather when I woke up but the excitement of the day was enough to get me up and going.
The day was largely filled with events - mall appearances, mostly. The traffic was up drastically today in the malls. Clearly there are a lot of you out there who have waited until the last minute. I did have a staff meeting. Our overall readiness looks good. Jingle and I also took a tour of the distribution center, where most of the work is now focused, and served meals to the team that has been working so hard there. I also checked in on Comet. He is hurting but undergoing some extensive therapy to be ready for tomorrow night's trip. There's a 75% chance he will be able to make the trip. Blazer, Dasher's little brother, has been designated as the alternate in the event Comet can not make the trip.
I have been asked by many if I will keep up my weblog after Christmas. I will if there is demand.
I will not sleep tonight. I'll enjoy a nice dinner with Mrs. Claus around 11pm, then at the stroke of midnight, Operation Christmas Eve kicks in.
I'm off to answer a few emails before dinner. Merry Christmas, all.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Snow was falling when I woke up this morning. It would have been a great morning to go for a run or walk through the Village with Mrs. Claus but I had to slam a cup of Starbucks and rush to over to the Distribution Center for a walk-through. The elves were already picking and packing the orders to be shipped to the replenishment centers. On Christmas Eve, I stop at the Replenishment Centers, which are spread around the globe, to re-fill my sleigh. The orders are already packed and sorted into their own individiual gift sacks for each house when they leave the North Pole Distribution Center in route to the Replenishment Center. The Distribution Center was really humming. It's not like the old days when we used to stack everything up to the rafters and then have to search for cartons. Then we'd spread the cartons out on the floor and manually sort everything Today the entire facility is automated. Every toy carton has an RFID tag that allows us to use automated storage & retrieval, automated sorting, and direct the cartons along miles of conveyor. Ollie, our head of logistics, tells me that we can distribute 17M toys an hour. I left the facility with a positive report on our distribution status.
From there it was a series of meetings, including the staff meeting, until it was time to fly out for a day of mall appearances. I had a headache during the flight from the North Pole to my first mall appearance of the day.
By the time I returned to the North Pole, I had a fever and my headache had worsened. I hope that I do not have the flu that is going around. But Jingle met me at the sleigh. He had just been informed that Comet injured his hip in a training flight. I called Mrs. Claus and let her know I'd miss dinner. Jingle and I rushed over to the Flight Operations Center to check on Comet. The doctor says it is just a strain. Comet insists he will be ready to fly on Christmas Eve. I believe him... he's a tough one. Despite the flu and the news on Comet, I am still very confident this will be one of the best Christmas' ever.
With the letter deadline just a few minutes away, I need to go start reading and answering email. Remember that once the deadline passes at 11:59pm tonight, I'll still accept and read letters... we just can not commit to our delivery gaurantee policy. So I encourage you all to keep up your letters. I'll read each each and everyone.
Good night, everyone.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Jingle, Ollie, and I were out all night touring the Replenishment Centers. I am happy to report that all of them passed their Readiness Assessment with flying colors. We landed just in time for the Production Meeting. Production remains on track; however, there is some concern that there might be a last minute spike in demand. PLEASE REMEMBER THE DEADLINE FOR LETTER SUBMISSION IS THURSDAY, DECEMBER 22nd @ 11:59PM.
From the production meeting, it was off to the full staff meeting. The "Nice" side of the Naughty & Nice register continues to grow. Weather appears favorable. Only one country has not yet granted us airspace... once that is done, the flight plan can be confirmed. It is all coming together nicely to be one of the best Christmases ever. The only concerning news was that the flu is starting to spread through the North Pole Village. Two of my senior staff were out. But according to Jingle, there has been no impact to productivity overall.
After the staff meeting, I had breakfast with Mrs. Claus. We reviewed the most up to date Christmas Eve operational plan over ham & cheese omlettes. From there, it was back into the sleigh for a round of appearances.
Upon my return, I went to the Production Center. It has been a long time since I have made any toys myself, but it was one of my great passions before our endeavor went global. The desire to sit down at the production line and build new toys is almost irresistible everytime I walk into the center. I gave in tonight even though I knew I needed to go home and sleep. I sent one of the elves on a 30 minute break. While he was gone, I sat down and made 3 toy trains. It was a great way to finish a very long day. I walked back across the Village Square - snow falling and people (& reindeer) scurrying every which direction - even more energized.
Only 2 more full days before Christmas Eve. I can't wait. Bring it on!
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
I absolutely love the final week before Christmas. The entire North Pole is buzzing with activity. I don't think anyone sleeps more than a couple of hours a night as we all strive to make sure this will be the best Christmas ever. It is truly exhilirating. As most of you know, I love my Starbucks Christmas blend - I drink it non-stop up until I go to bed - but it is not the caffeine that keeps me going. This final week is truly exhilirating.
I am happy to report that I managed to find a gift for Mrs. Claus thanks to a very good suggestion I received via email. Many of you made suggestions and I truly appreciate it. One suggested I spend Christmas Eve at home with her by the tree. Unfortunately, I can't do that but Mrs. Claus and I will have plenty of time alone together in Hawaii after Christmas. Annie wondered if Mrs. Claus had ever accompanied me on the Christmas Eve journey and suggested I take her along. In fact, Mrs. Claus has gone on several Christmas Eve journeys with me; however, most years she is unable to go. Mrs. Claus basically orchestrates the entire night from the North Pole. She is the one at the command center who calls all the shots. Jingle, as my Chief of Staff, plays a critical role in overseeing the execution of the night's operational plan but Mrs. Claus is in charge overall. She keeps an eye on the big picture, sets the priorities for the night, and approves any changes to plan. Alot of TV shows picture her handing over a scarf and admonishing me to be careful as I leave and then meeting me with hot chocolate and cookies upon my return. The silliness of the suggestion that I'd even consider another cup of hot chocolate or cookies after a night of feasting on it at virtually every house aside, Mrs. Claus is actually in the Command Center, focused on the night's activities. The night's operation doesn't end when the sleigh touches down at the North Pole. The operation is officially underway until we have verified all the gifts were delivered to their intended destinations, the sleigh is moved to the hangar, the reindeer are fed & examined by our medical teams, and all Centers except the Command Center are shut-down for the night. I am typically at home and waiting for Mrs. Claus with hot chocolate and cookies when she gets home.
I am not sleeping tonight. Instead, I'm off to inspect the Replenishment Centers with Ollie and Jingle. We'll visit each one tonight to assess their readiness before we begin ramping up shipments to them over the next couple of days. We'll be back in time for the morning production meeting.
Good night, all!
Monday, December 19, 2005
The phone rang about 10 minutes before the alarm clock was set to sound. It wasn't my mobile phone so I knew it must be family. It was my mother-in-law. Apparently she IS reading my blog daily (see yesterday's post for reference). By the time she hung up, the alarm clock was sounding. And I still don't know what to get Mrs. Claus for Christmas this year.
I rushed through my morning routine, even cutting my run short by a mile, so I could make it to the naughty & nice list review. The meeting started off very positive as Elmer informed us that the nice list was up 22% over the previous week. It was a new record for the final week before Christmas. There are more "nice" kids than ever before in history! The signficance of that fact was barely sinking in when Elmer delivered the caveat. In reconciling individual letters with the naughty and nice list, it was discovered that almost52,000 people were somehow left out of the naughty & nice list. The process was automated a few years back but once the discrepancy was found, a team of elves went through each and every letter and reconciled it with the naughty & nice list by hand. Elmer even had a manual re-count conducted after there were winds of some of the "naughty" kids threatening legal recourse with the a claim of significant deficiencies in the count and classification process. The good news on this front was that every single child has now been accounted for. The "naughty & nice" report has also been modified to correct the bug that led to the accidental omissions. The challenge for the day though was whether or not we had sufficient safety stock in the inventory to cover these new requests and/or could we modify our production & procurement plans.
We didn't have time to debate it as I was already running late for my day of public appearances. Today I was making a fairly rare public appearance in China. I certainly didn't want to be late. So we decided we'd address the potential inventory shortage resulting from this finding over conference call. I took the conference call in the sleigh while in route to China. Ollie had just acquired updated reports and it appears that we will cover the potential shortage.
5 continents, 42 cities, & 82,000 kids later, I returned to the North Pole just in time for an update on the weather and flight plans. I am happy to report that all is on track with only minor weather-related adjustments to the preferred routing.
I still have a few hours of work remaining as I submit my post tonight, including conference calls with some small countries that still have not granted airspace. It won't be a problem on Christmas Eve... it never is... but it will require some direct attention from me to make it happen on time.
That's it for now. Merry Christmas, all!
Sunday, December 18, 2005
A week from today, I'll be wrapping up a wonderful Christmas Day dinner with Mrs. Claus and preparing to fall asleep in my recliner. We are just 1 week away from Christmas Day. More importantly to the schedule around here, less than 6 days away from the Christmas Eve journey.
The Christmas Eve work will "officially" get underway right at 12:01am on Saturday, December 24th; however, my preparations will start when I wake up around 3am on the 23rd and simply continue through. The final push will include tune-ups on the sleigh, proper meals for the reindeer team, last minute delivery of product to the replenishment & staging points, and final updates to the naughty-nice list. Just before nightfall at the dateline, I will lift off from the flight operations center and the Christmas Eve journey will be underway.
But much work - and in many ways - the hardest work will occur in the next few days leading up to the 24th. We continue to receive & review letters (deadline is 11:59pm Dec 22nd) that are then entered into the system as customer orders. The customer orders are translated into production orders for the toys that will be manufactured by North Pole Inc. or it's outsourced manufacturing partners. All remaining toy requests are translated from customer orders to purchase orders in order to be procured from other suppliers. Product will then be manufactureed or procured. Once we have acquired the product, either through procurement or production, it is stored in the warehouse. On the 22nd and 23rd, we will begin to pick, sort, and pack the product for the individual customer orders (i.e. your requests). The product for each customer is sorted and packed into an individual Santa sack for each person. At that point, an RFID tag is applied to the bag that identifies the name and address of the intended owner. We used to use printed tags - and before that hand written tags - but the new RFID tags allow us to take 2 less elves along for the ride, thus increasing our capacity and reducing the number of required replenishment stops. Meanwhile, we are tracking global weather and building our final flight plan options. And of course the number of required public appearances - malls, parades, sporting events, talk shows, etc - spikes.
And in addition to all of that work, I have managed to put off buying Mrs. Claus' gift. You would think with all the time I spend in malls, that I'd have my shopping done. The problem is that I just do not know what to get her this year. It really irritates me to have to ask her for ideas - that takes all the fun and surprise out of it. I may have to breakdown and call her mother to see if she has any insights. Of course, she'll make sure I hear about how I should know my wife - her daughter - better. And she will wonder aloud about "why in the world would I wait so long to buy a gift? You are Santa Claus, for goodness sake. You work one day a year. It's not like you don't have time to think about this stuff." Oh boy. Maybe Jingle will have some insights.
Well, I need to get to bed. We begin with an early staff meeting tomorrow at 4am to review the results from tonight's naughty & nice research and it doesn't let up until well after midnight according to Jingle's schedule for tomorrow.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
The first Christmas I remember was when I was 3 years old. I lived with my father and mother near the small village of Drobak. My father was an exiled king. Before I was born, he had ruled a kingdom that stretches across much of what is now Germany. Soon after my mother became pregnant with me, my father's younger brother, who had been the next in line for the throne, conspired with a neighboring king to overthrow my father. Fearing for the life of my mother and me, my father fled to Norway.
Though my father remained extremely wealthy, having escaped with much of the family treasures, we lived like paupers so as not to draw attention to ourselves. Our house was just outside the Village. My father had built it with his own hands. It was probably the first thing he had ever built. It was small, drafty, and almost perptually dark as it sat under the deep cover of the forest... the only warmth coming from a stone fireplace and the only light from htat fire and the candles my mother had made. Yet when we were all there together, it somehow seemed to glow with warmth.
Back then, there was no Santa Claus (obviously!) to bring presents, no Christmas parades, no Christmas parties, no Sales at the mall, no TV Holiday Specials, no Christmas carols, nor gift giving. There were certainly no Christmas lights. In fact, the only semblance of a decoration for most families at that time was a small tree. Traditionally, a small tree was cut each year and brought inside on Christmas Eve to be decorated by the family. As you can tell, our Christmases were pretty "bare" by today's standards.
From that 'first' Christmas, aged 3, I remember getting in the sleigh right after we finished decorating our tree on Christmas Eve. We traveled several kilometers through the woods to the closest church. I remember my father crying - a small tear running down his cheek - as the priest told the story of how God had sent His only Son to the world - not as a prince but as a poor baby sleeping in rags in a stable - in order to save the very people that no longer believed in God. After the service, he knelt and prayed for the longest time. I do not know until this day what he prayed but as I now look back, I can imagine that he gave thanks and prayed that he would have the strength to be an example of that kind of love.
It was dark by the time we started our trip back home. We stopped several times. Each time my father would jump out of his seat, pull something from the sleigh, and bound through the snow towards a nearby cabin. As I grew older, and after many years of the same stops, I figured out that my father was leaving small bags of gold coins at the doors of those most needy. The next morning, the residents would wake up to find the coins at their doorstep and their quality of life changed forever. Never again would they wonder where the next meal would come. No one ever expected it to be my father and that was exactly how he wanted it.
I fell quickly asleep once we returned home. As I would every Christmas after that until I moved out, I awoke to the sounds of people chattering excitedly about Christmas morning. The smell of pancakes and hot cider permeated the air. Most of the villagers were gathering at our house. We didn't have much space, but somehow, almost everyone squeezed into that small, 1-room home for a delicious Christmas morning breakfast that my mom had stayed up all night to prepare. She did not want anyone to be alone on Christmas Day. She told me that morning that she believed Christmas was a day of Hope, intended to be spent rejoicing with friends and family rather than focusing on every day trials.
I will never forget that Christmas, though I was merely 3 years old. At the time I did not know it, but this was our annual Christmas tradition. My father never stopped weeping at the Christmas story. And he never stopped giving anonymously to those in need. And my mother never stopped hosting the village in our home on Christmas Day. As I grow older, I realize that my parents lived life, and approached every decision, with that same spirit of Christmas. The lessons they have taught me, will never leave me. I only pray to set the same example of selfless giving that my father & mother set before me.
Merry Christmas, all!
Thursday, December 15, 2005
I was informed today that within the next 3 years, we will be required to add two more reindeer to the Christmas Eve team. This will be driven by a new larger, but more efficient, sleigh model being delivered from a company in Seattle. With the population growth projections, all the analysis clearly shows that a larger sleigh is the more economical approach rather than simply adding more replenishment points. Also, there is some debate about whether we could squeeze in additional replenishment stops given the already very tight schedule.
This means that as early as next year, we'll need to begin our selection process to choose the two new reindeer that will be added to the team. When we have had to add reindeer in the past, we have open try-outs that are conducted in the form of a 60 day camp. At the end of 60 days, Nova (our manager and trainer for the reindeer teams) and her team of elves and senior reindeer choose 10 reindeer to advance in the selection process. The ten reindeer then train for a full year. It is a full-time commitment with 12 hours a day, 5 days a week of mental and physical drills. At the end of the year, the final two are selected along with 4 alternates. The six selected reindeer then join the primary team as "interns" for a full year before officially taking their first Christmas Eve flight.
Many people probably believe that I have always had the current reindeer team but that is not accurate. My original Christmas Eve flight was with Blitzen and Comet. Over the years, we added two at a time with the exception of when Rudolph joined by himself. We have also had to replace a few reindeer over the years due to retirement, injuries, etc.. Fortunately, we have not had any career-ending injuries but we have had a few that forced us to use our alternates as replacements on occasion. In all, there have been 16 reindeer fly Christmas Eve flights. But the core group remains virtually the same year after year.
Jolly (our Chief Marketing Office) is already pushing for us to turn the try outs into a reality TV show. Don't worry... while I readily embrace the technologies and trends of the day, I am too much of a traditionalist to turn the reindeer games into such a media circus.
So if you think you have the "right stuff" to be one of Santa's reindeer, keep your eyes posted for applications to the 60 day camp.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
I skipped my morning run. With the recovery efforts still underway, there is just too much to do in a 24 hour day. Even with our hot site up and running plus agreements with several major retailers, I have dedicated the early parts of the day seeking contract manufacturers capable of picking up the small gap that remains. Even though the "Santa Claus" and "North Pole" brands open some doors in these type of negotiations, there are still some real constraints associated with ramping up additional volumes on such short notice. After a series of calls to various manufacturing CEO, I walked across the village to the Production Facility. The smoke was still heavy in the air almost 36 hours later but as I crossed the Village Square and entered the facility, it appeared business was going on as usual. I toured the damaged area and was given a brief on the repair efforts before sitting down to breakfast with the workers that were there when the fire broke out. Mrs. Claus had decided it would be nice to host them to a big breakfast and give thanks for their saftey.
There was a big spread set out in the middle of the staging area. The first shift buzzed by carrying raw materials on forklifts and the PA blared various announcements and instructions. The third shift - the very same workers that had evacuated this same facility in a haze of smoke and heat a few hours earlier - ambled into the area as their shift ended. Every single one had come back to work even though they were told they could take the entire week off given the trauma of the prior evenings events. Not a single one wanted to risk a child not receiving their gift. We had pancakes, eggs, bacon, oatmeal, muffins, fresh fruit... you name it, we probably had it available. As much as I enjoy good food though, I really enjoyed having a chance to hug each one and thank them for their commitment to the kids.
By the time I was done at the breakfast, Jingle was reminding me that I was already 22 minutes behind schedule. Other than maybe a few heads of state, I have a hard time believing other executives schedules are managed by other people to the minute like mine is. Jingle and I discussed the slate of requests for cable news show interviews as we semi-jogged toward the Flight Operations Center. Then it was off to a day full of appearances. We agreed Jingle would call my mobile later in the day to finish the discussion on the cable news shows. As we lifted off, I could hear him yelling "Alright... only 18 minutes behind now!"
By lunch, I had caught back up on schedule. It's not easy to stay on schedule. We really try to avoid it but every so often I have to leave a mall while there is still a line for photos. That really bothers me and fortunately it doesn't happen often. And when it does, you can be assured it is urgent.
It was almost 9:30pm by the time I touched back down. Mrs. Claus was already at the Flight Operations Center when I landed. We walked hand-in-hand across the village, enjoying the crisp, cold night air... I particurlarly noticed the smoke had cleared since the morning. I could smell the faintest hint of gingerbread cookies wafting from the Village homes and the fresh pine scent from the wreathes and garland strung throughout town. Mrs. Claus and I made our way to the first of three fire houses. We stopped in each one to deliver Christmas candy and personally say Thank You to the fire fighters for saving Christmas. It won't stop there in terms of showing our appreciation as we have some other things planned but it certainly starts with a simple "Thank You".
Jingle's official schedule for my day ended at 11:30pm. It was 11:31 when we left the last firehouse. I headed back home and wrote this update to my blog. I still have a few emails to read and respond to before I can go to bed, but, it was a good day.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
I don't get much sleep this time of year... about 2 hours a night on average. 4 hours of sleep would be like sleeping in. So I had only dozed off last night when I was stirred by that dreaded sound of the mobile phone vibrating on the nightstand next to my bed. I knew immediately that it wasn't going to be good.
It was Jingle on the other end of the line. Bo and Candy had just called him. All he could tell me was that there had been a fire at the production facility. He didn't know much more but he was on his way there. I told him I'd meet him there in 15 minutes.
I jumped out of bed and rushed across the Village. Even at that hour, the work was continuing. But I could hear the sirens still rushing to the production facility. "How bad was it?" is all I could remember thinking.
When I got there, they were still fighting the fire but it had been contained. Bo had organized a group of the team leads to beging accounting for everyone. It was another hour -- about 2am --before we knew that everyone was safe and accounted for. That was one of the longest hours of my life.
Jingle called an emergency meeting for 4am and Bo immediately began the process of assessing the damage. By the 4am meeting, Candy had enacted the disaster recovery and contingency plans, Bo had a full report on the damage, Ollie had a complete inventory report, Sprite had begun to contact suppliers about increasing the volumes we would procure rather than build, and Melody had the press releases ready to go. We had never faced this kind of challenge before but the team was truly rallying.
Bo estimated that we could have the facility running at 50% by end of day but it would take the entire week before we could be back up to 100%. Candy reported that our back-up facility... a hot site that has the raw materials inventory and tooling so that it can begin production with 2 hours notice... was only 30 minutes away from start-up. Team leads had already reported. Ollie cautioned that it would be another 4 to 6 hours before he could get a precise estimate but it appeared that over 40% of the total build plan was complete; however, he could make a high-level estimate. Given Bo's report on getting the facility back up & running and the capacity at our "hot site", Ollie estimated they would be able to cover about 80% of the requests. Sprite believed that she could work with suppliers to cover a large portion of the deficit but the fact remained that not every request will be filled exactly this year. Many kids will have to settle for some things that may be different than what they requested. This is disappointing but in light of how tragic it could have been, it has some perspective. Melody had some tough messages to deliver.
Most of my morning appearances were cancelled; however, by noon local time, I was headed back out to make mall appearances. I was able to work from the sleigh between cities and stay connected with the recovery efforts back at the Village. At Sprite's proddding, I placed calls to a few key suppliers as well as a large retailer based in northwest Arkansas to help "free up" the additional inventory we know we are going to have to acquire in light of the fire.
I arrived back at the Village well after 9pm and went straight to a meeting with Ollie to discuss how production from the hot site will be pre-positioned to the replenishment points. With the help of the brown company and an air frieght company based in Memphis, Tennessee, we will be able to maintain the current 22nd of December 11:59pm deadline.
And now I'm finally going to go get a few minutes sleep.
For Immediate Release
FIRE DAMAGES NORTH POLE PRODUCTION FACILITY; NO INJURIES
At approximately 12:45am local time, a fire was reported in Building #4 on the manufacturing campus of the North Pole Inc. main production center. North Pole Village Fire & Rescue has confirmed there were no major injuries and all employees of North Pole Inc. have been located and confirmed safe.
Initial reports indicate the fire was the result of a faulty electrical connection in building 4. The fire was the first 3-alarm fire in the history of the North Pole Village. Within 20 minutes of the first alarm, senior executives had mobilized to the site and the firefighters had contained the fire. Santa Claus, who was among the first of the executives to arrive out of concern for the employees, said "We are grateful that no one was injured. We are now turning our attention to the task at hand of meeting the Christmas requests of children around the world. I am deeply grateful for the amazing response of the Fire & Rescue team. These fire fighters saved Christmas."
While it will be several days, maybe even weeks, before the production facility returns to 100% capacity, disaster recovery plans have been activated. A large percentage of qualifying Christmas requests will be met with exact requests. In incidences where qualifying requests can not be met, there will be sufficient inventory to allow a comparable substitution.
Please Direct All Media Inquiries To Melody in Public Relations
Monday, December 12, 2005
The first flying reindeer I ever met was Blitzen. It was years ago. It was well before I ever knew reindeer could fly, or knew of elves, or built the North Pole Village.
I was a humble toy-maker in the town I was born - Drobak, Norway. A few years earlier I had met Mrs. Claus, we married, and shortly after opened a toy shop. Our business was starting to take off and I had just expanded into the markets of Oslo. It was a long trip by sleigh in the winter months. I would fill my sleigh with a week's worth of goods so that once I made the trip, I could stay for a full week before returning back along the seldom travelled trails. It was on my trip back late one night in the dead of winter. Even though it wasn't particularly wise to travel the forest alone at night, I was rushing back to be home in time for Mrs. Claus' birthday the next day. I was hoping to arrive just before dawn so I could be there when she woke up. The toy sales had been particularly brisk and I had used the money to buy Mrs. Claus an emerald drop that I had noticed her secretly (or at least, she thought it was secret) admiring in the window on all of our trips to Oslo. As I headed out of town, I noticed the wind picking up and snow beginning to fall. An hour or so outside of town, the storm had arrived. I was unable to see beyond the front of the sled and was forced to stop. It was obvious pretty quickly that I was not prepared. My only shelter was a blanket I huddled under, curled up in the floor of the sleigh. I could feel the life seeping out from me as the cold set in. After a few minutes, I was no longer cold but I could feel my eyelids getting heavier. Deep down, I knew I was going to die yet my only thoughts were about taking a nap. I don't know to this day if it was minutes or hours later... but I suddenly felt an extremely cold blast on my face as the blanket was pulled back. A warm nose brushed against my face. I was certain I was hallucinating... surely I wasn't talking to a reindeer. Surely he wasn't offering to fly me home. Even the next morning, when I woke up in my own bed back in Drobak, I thought for sure it was a dream. Or it was a hallucination. But it wasn't. It was Blitzen.
After that day, Mrs Claus and I both grew very close to Blitzen. Over time, he trusted us enough to introduce us to the other flying reindeer that lived in the woods of Norway. He was also the one who introduced us to the elfs and their tradition of selfless gift giving. Without Blitzen, it is conceivable that their never would have been a Santa Claus.
To this day, Blitzen remains my lead reindeer. Rudolph may be the most famous of all.... and we love him like we do every one of the reindeer... and he is in front of the team on Christmas Eve but Blitzen is my favorite. Even at his age, he remains the fastest, smartest, and most cheerful of the reindeer.
Thank you for everything you do. We love you.
- Mr. and Mrs. Claus
Sunday, December 11, 2005
There is a story circulating around North America and Asia that purports letters addressed to me at the North Pole were either stolen or misplaced by the local postal service. These stories are purely urban myth. However, if you would like to make sure I receive your letter, you can post it right here in the comments section.
That's right! Post your letter to Santa in the comments below. It's that simple!
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Wow. As much as I complain about all the distractions and the mess around the house in the week before, the annual Christmas party really is a lot of fun. And its a good break for everyone from the chaotic pace that is December around here.
I think Mrs. Claus out-did herself this year. There were carolers lining the walkway up to the house. There were choirs and top 40 singers performing Christmas music. There was a Broadway-scale & style production of Narnia. There was even a real lion available for the guests to take pictures with. There were captains of industry, heads of state, and celebrities in attendance. The food was incredible as Mrs. Claus tried to have a sample of cuisine from every continent represented. Most importantly, we raised a record amount of pledges to help out with gifts for needy children around the world. There is just so much to do this year with the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, Earthquakes throughout Iran, Pakistan, and India, and the Hurricanes in the Southeast United States. And that is just the large-scale stuff. Many, many, many individuals have suffered loss and tragedy this year. The best gift I can give any of you is the advice to find a charity or needy family near you this Christmas and ask you to give (a few clothes, food, toys, etc). The joy you get from giving will be greater than anything I can give you. You know, even I... Santa Claus... and the great group of elves, reindeer, volunteers, and strategic partners can not do everything. We need your help to make every child's Christmas cheerful. And that is partly what this party was all about.
Only 13 days left (not counting today since its almost over or the 24th since my journey begins first thing) until I begin my round-the world journey. The long-range weather forecast is looking pretty good and I should be able to take my ideal route. Only about 11 days left to get your letters in (Deadline 22 December at 11:59pm). You can use tomorrow's posting to post your letters to Santa if you are worried about mail delivery here in the final days.
Merry Christmas, All!
Friday, December 09, 2005
Aloha! I booked my post-Christmas vacation today. I will take it easy around the Village on the 26th but on the 27th I'm off to my favorite place on Earth... the Hawaiian Islands. I will be there the entire month of January. While I'll have a base on the Big Island, I'll be spending some time on Kauai and Maui. In fact, if you are in Lahaina on New Year's Eve, you might keep an eye for ol' Santa. Just the thought of returning to the Islands for a month is refreshing.
Today's staff meeting focused on the newly released "Naughty and Nice" report. The number of folks on the "nice" side of the register increased again this week by 10%, but, almost 2 million people remain "on the bubble" and could go either way. This may be the most I have ever seen "on the bubble". Traditionally, we have team of elfs in the call center contact the parents of those kids and let them know that their kids are on the verge of being on the naughty list and every single action matters. But even after extending our call center working hours to 24x7, there are too many parents to call with the list so big. We made a decision in the meeting to contract with a call center in India to help with overload that remains after maxing out the elf call center. So kids, if you want to know whether or not you are on the bubble, we will be telling your parents and I'm sure they will let you know.
The most disturbing report though was the first "belief" report. The report will be delivered weekly to the staff meeting between now and Christmas Eve. The report tracks the percentage of those who believe in Santa Claus vs. those who do not by market. 86% of the people in North America do not believe, 7% are unsure, and 7% believe. The number in Europe is only slightly better with 79% who do not believe, 5% unsure, and 16% believe. I have called an emergency meeting of the marketing team for tomorrow morning. We need to get those numbers up.
Preparations for the big "Narnia-themed" Christmas party continued today. Fortunately, I was in my HQ office - in fact, I'm still there now and need to head home in a few minutes - when I wasn't in malls or schools today, so I didn't have to deal with the chaos. I am excited about the big party tomorrow night though.
To all a good night! And Aloha.
It may be my imagination but I believe this year's schedule has been the busiest ever. Maybe I'm just getting older. The last few days have been filled with public appearances including morning and late night shows in addition to all of the operational meetings. I guess the good news is that all of the Reindeer get a pretty good work-out hauling me all over the world each day.
Mrs. Claus is continuing to prepare for the big Christmas party on Saturday night. The house (we always hold our annual Christmas party at our house rather than at the banquet hall) is in complete disarray as the elves scurry about setting up everything for the party. Mrs. Claus took a while to settle on the theme for this year's party... in fact, she changed her mind a couple of times, requiring the elf crew and reindeer to load-unload the party equipment several times. I do think the final theme - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe - will be a huge hit. But it takes its time and energy, which I can tell you is in short supply at the North Pole this time of year, to pull together an event of this magnitude. Even Jingle has been distracted as he has gotten involved in trying to schedule the main act for the night. Everyone - and I mean everyone - wants to play the North Pole... that is not an issue. The issue is finding a singer or group that fits with the theme and maintains the high standards of North Pole, Inc.
As you can imagine, I am approached daily about various commercial opportunities ranging from public appearances, movie or tv roles, book deals, product sponsorships, etc. I was presented with an idea today that may be the most creative I have heard to-date. It's so obvious I'm surprised it had not been raised with me before. A major book publisher wants me to publish a travel guide and supplement it with online content. Who else better than me to write about the cities of the world? I like the thought of it. Keep your eyes out this summer... I just may pursue this opportunity.
Well, believe it or not, I have one more meeting I need to rush off to before I try to catch at least an hour of sleep. (I'm only sleeping 1-2 hours a night at home plus catching a few winks in the sleigh between cities -- my staff is on the same schedule as we hit the final days). This meeting tonight that I'm headed to was unplanned. I don't know if you saw the news but it turns out the Ozone layer over the North Pole is healing itself at a rate slower than previously thought. It will be 2040 before the hole completely heals itself whereas previously estimates were around 2020. The good news is that it is getting better. The bad news is that those twenty years could have significant effect on this environment we live and work in.
Have a good night, all.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
I was recently ask to give some sort of hard proof of my existence. Well, now that is a tall order, and normally I would say you must just believe! Yet, to the parents who's children have ask the question here is a bit to chew on. If I did not exist then why do governments clear air space for me on Christmas Eve, and postal systems recognize the North Pole and Santa as a legitimate address and accept and deliver millions of letters every year to me? Also, how about all those letters that I write in response to the ones children write to me? I will use the United States as the example here. The President of the United States every year clears air space for me, and NORAD tracks my flights to be sure I am safe. This has gone on for many years. Do you think the President of the United States would clear air space if I was not real, and NORAD track me? The United States Post Office recognizes my address and person - in all the letters addressed to Santa, or Santa Claus etc. at the North Pole. I receive these letters and the US Postal Service surely would not accept all that mail if I did not exist. In fact you would get it back stamped with a return to sender - no such address exists - if I did not exist! So, to those who doubt there are two very solid factual reasons that do indeed prove I exist. Of course, there will always be those who do not believe, or who make up other explanations for me. Oh, I am real - as real as the very Spirit of Christmas that lives in the hearts of all who believe! I hope that helps all of you parents, and children who ask.
WEBMASTER NOTE: Much of this co-authored for Santa due to time constraints; however, Santa edited and approved the final text = Jingle, Chief of Staff
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Today was a big day! I made my first school appearance of the season. Malls, Parades, Tree Lightings, and other events are all fun but none are as much fun as when I'm invited to a classroom. The students are always surprised when I walk through the classroom door. I wish everyone could witness the look of pure happiness that crosses their little faces. That alone makes this job more than worthwhile.
There were a number of meetings today but none were bigger than the dinner I had with Mrs. Claus. I had almost forgotten (I think it may have been selective memory at work) but this weekend is the annual Christmas party. I love the Christmas season but the Christmas party is just not on the top of my list. To be fair... the reality is that Mrs. Claus does most of the work and it is fun; however, I can't help but think about how big a distraction it is to the entire place. Mrs. Claus says it keeps everyone motivated and energized through the challenging times. She says it builds good will and promotes world peace.
I used to enjoy it. At least I did back when the preparations consisted of straightening the garage and putting up a few Christmas lights around the walls. Back then, it was just a bunch of our closest friends and everyone hung out in garage or the kitchen. Of course, that hasn't been the case since the late '50s. Now Mrs. Claus hosts heads of State, captains of industry, and celebrities. Just the protocol briefing consumes an hour of my time. But we do raise a tremendous amount of money (it is a charity event) in pledge commitments to kids in need. And it is one of the few times you can rally so many world leaders to a common cause. So I find a way to tolerate it.
Anyway, we spent our dinner reviewing the plans for the big event on Saturday night so that the preparations could gear up beginning tomorrow. Mrs. Claus has a gift for organizing these events and she really enjoys it. So I know it will be great as long as Jingle can keep the staff focused between now and then. I'll make sure I update you on the evening in Saturday's blog posting.
Well... it is late again. You will hear from me, if you don't see me out and about, several times again this week. Make sure you stay in touch and spread the Christmas cheer with your friends and family.
Good night, friends.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
It was another busy day. During this time of year, there is no such thing as a "weekend". In fact, Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sundays are big parade and tree lighting days in addition to the mall appearances. And all the production work has to continue in order to meet the demand. We can rest on December 26th. And I am going to do just that. In fact, I spent a little time earlier today searching internet deals to some nice little getaway spots for after Christmas. I'm thinking something warm, sunny, and on the beach.... for about a month. I'll keep looking as I didn't find anything too interesting yet.
At a mall in Springfield, Illinois today, a little girl told me she had been reading my weblog. She also asked me why I didn't share more about the reindeer. I told her I didn't really have a good answer and maybe I could occasionally tell a story or two about the most famous reindeer. So I may use my time tonight to tell you a little about the most famous reindeer of all... Rudolph.
I think most of you know a lot about Rudolph. Surprisingly, the classic TV show "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" is fairly accurate. The producers spent quite a bit of time up here at the North Pole researching the story and seeking direct input from Rudolph, Donder, Mrs. Claus, and others. I wish I could say the same for all the other shows about Rudolph... unfortunately, most of those are just the result of someone's creative imagination.
Rudolph is the son of Donder, one of my original reindeer team members. Unlike the TV show and the song, Rudolph never was alienated by the other reindeer. Quite the contrary. Yes, we were surprised by the red nose... but as the one of on of the most respected reindeer on the ranch, Rudolph was clearly destined for greatness from the beginning. The fact that he was also a well-behaved kid and excelled at the reindeer games only made him that much more popular. Of course, there were childhood pranks... and Rudolph was occasionally on the receiving end. In fact, one of the funniest stories I remember about Rudolph was the time Cupid decided to put purple cellophane over his nose. But I will save that for another day when we have more time.
Well, it is late and my alarm goes off again in a couple of hours. See you soon.
Friday, December 02, 2005
Operation Southern Cross was a huge success (the little sleigh incident notwithstanding). What a joy it is to see those kids' faces.
I returned just a couple of hours ago. Jingle, my chief of staff, pulled me into a staff meeting to review the final decision on the production cut-off date. All production will be discontinued at 8am on December 23rd. All receipts of procured goods will be discontinued at noon on December 23rd. A small "buffer" inventory of the most popular toys requested will be made and/or procured to ensure that the majority of late arriving letters will be covered. All goods will be pre-positioned, with the help of 10 reindeer teams and two large global express package carriers, at replenishment centers around the globe by 12:01am on December 24th. That leaves the entire day and much of the early Christmas morning hours for me and my team to deliver toys. Given the production and receipt deadlines, we will be publishing midnight December 22nd as the targeted deadline for lettters.
Well... I'm exhausted after that trip and the meeting I'm going to call it a night. Merry Christmas!
Thursday, December 01, 2005
The good news is that I have a chance to read my emails and update my blog. The bad news is why. I should be in the middle of Operation Southern Cross. Instead, I am in an airport lounge awaiting a flight to Buenos Aires, where I'll catch a train to my base of operations for this two day blitz of the southern hemisphere. I was over the Andes mountains when a red light came on in the sleigh. At first, I didn't think anything about it. Then Peter told me that we had to land. Turns out that we were on the verge of a structural failure. We landed in Lima. After contacting Flight Ops back at the Village, we learned that they couldn't get another sleigh out until the morning. At that time we made a decision to take a commercial flight back to Buenos Aires and catch the train. Bad decision. My flight has now been delayed twice. And I'm stuck with middle seat at the back of the plane.
Otherwise, Operation Southern Cross is progressing well. I am enjoying the opportunity to bring a smile to the faces of the little ones around the world. A few flight delays and an uncomfortable middle seat are worth it.
As my travel continues tomorrow, I may not have another chance for an update. If not, I look forward to your emails on Friday.
Merry Christmas to all. And to all, a good night.