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The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is getting ready to tackle its annual holiday mission – tracking Santa’s storybook sleigh ride around the world.

Peterson Air Force base in Colorado Springs has been working for weeks for its one-day mission.

Volunteers will be answering calls from an estimated 125,000 children around the globe looking for Santa’s whereabouts.

The call center in a training building will be staffed starting at 1 AM on December 24, for 23 hours on Christmas Eve. Volunteers will also share Santa’s location on Facebook and Twitter.

View Santa’s route HERE

 

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South Koreans protesters dressed as Santa Claus have marched through the streets of Seoul calling for the immediate removal of President Park Geun-hye.

The festive protest marks the ninth week of rallies against the South Korean president.

Earlier this month South Korea’s parliament has voted to impeach Park Geun-hye over a corruption scandal, but that decision has to be confirmed by the country’s constitutional court.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators demand the president to resign at once.

Organizers say more than 550,000 people joined the ranks marching towards the presidential Blue House, the prime minister’s office and the constitutional court. Police figures were not available.

The crowd chanted “Arrest Park immediately!” and sang along to Christmas songs whose lyrics they had changed to mock the president.

Between 200 and 300 young people in Santa outfits handed out books and Christmas cards to children at the demonstration, chanting: “Gifts to children and handcuffs to Park!”

The scandal which has engulfed President Park Geun-hye centers on her relationship with long-time friend Choi Soon-sil, who faces charges of coercion and abuse of power.

It is alleged that after Park Geun-hye became president in 2013, Choi Soon-sil, 60, used their friendship to pressure top companies into donating to foundations she controlled, and then siphoned off funds for her own gain.

Prosecutors are also investigating new allegations that Choi Soon-sil sent dubious assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars overseas.

Park Geun-hye’s one-time ally has been in custody since October, and was brought to a special prosecutors’ office to be questioned on December 24.

A spokesman for the special prosecutor told reporters: “We will question her to confirm her earlier statements and investigate other allegations.”

President Park Geun-hye has been suspended from her duties since the impeachment vote on December 9, but insists she will wait “calmly” until the constitutional court delivers its decision.

If the constitutional court confirms her impeachment, Park Geun-hye will be permanently removed from office, and elections will be held within 60 days.

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For the first time in the Mall of America’s 24-year history, a black Santa will greet families for annual Christmas photos.

The shopping center in Minnesota has employed Larry Jefferson, a retired army veteran from Texas.

Larry Jefferson will greet children this weekend at the shopping centre’s Christmas experience.

Co-owner of the photo studio, Landon Luther, has told the Minnesota Star Tribune that he’s been looking for a more diverse Santa that children of color can relate to since 2015.

“This is a long time coming,” Landon Luther said.

Image source Facebook

Image source Facebook

“We want Santa to be for everyone, period. It was like finding a needle in a haystack. He considers himself a Santa for all.”

Landon Luther says he got Santa Sid, who’s been having his photo taken with children for the last 20 years, to look for a black Santa.

He finally tracked one down in July at a Santa convention in Branson, Missouri, where hundreds of impersonators convened for a “Kringle family reunion”.

Larry Jefferson is working at the Mall of America until December 4, before he returns to his own seasonal circuit in Dallas, Texas.

He says children don’t care what color he is.

“What they see most of the time is this red suit and candy,” Larry Jefferson told the Star Tribune.

“[Santa represents] a good spirit. I’m just a messenger to bring hope, love and peace to girls and boys.”

Larry Jefferson said he started wearing a Santa outfit in 1999 and used to visit his nephews at their house because they were too sick to go to an official experience.

He grew a white beard after retiring from the US army in 2015 and since then has graduated from Santa University in Denver, Colorado (he also has a degree in sociology).

Larry Jefferson booked up already all weekend and there’s now a waiting list for appointments.

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Brussels security has delayed Saint Nicholas’ traditional Christmas welcome by school kids.

St. Nicholas is the traditional bearer of Christmas gifts in much of continental Europe.

Heightened security has delayed St. Nicholas’ arrival in the Belgian capital from November 30 to December 4, Visit Brussels says.

Saint Nicholas, similar to Santa Claus, had been due to land by steamboat at Peniches Quay on Monday morning, November 30.

He will distribute sweets and hot chocolate in a decorated marquee.Saint Nicholas Brussels

St. Nicholas will be “welcomed in style by a crowd of impatient children” along with Rudi Vervoort, Premier of the Brussels region, Visit Brussels reports.

All schools in the Brussels area had been invited to take part, but the event was canceled last week as the terror threat level was still at four – the highest – following the Paris attacks on November 13.

The threat level, which curtailed a range of activities in Brussels including school outings, has since been downgraded to three.

Visit Brussels, the organizers, gave details of December 4 welcoming ceremony.

“From early morning all the children can participate in a feast, full of animation, music and hot drinks.”

Previous years have included face-painting contests with a prize presented by Saint Nicholas.

Traditionally St. Nicholas leaves presents for children on December 6 in return for a glass of milk.

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UPS acknowledged getting swamped by the seasonal cheer and failing to deliver thousands of orders in time for Christmas.

“The volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity in our network,” UPS spokeswoman Natalie Godwin said in a statement.

Now, even as the company is lionized on the holiday cover of Bloomberg Businessweek for making “dreams come true”, customers are streaming online to pummel the shipping giant.

For some of the customers the void under the tree came despite days of phone-and-Web wrangling with UPS customer service. In Houston, the Amaya family toggled between tracking their package online and waiting by the door for UPS to arrive. But after 10 days and two delays, they finally gave up hope.

Christmas is about more than just stuff, many posters acknowledged, but even some of the smaller, more symbolic gifts of Christmas got lost in transit.

 “UPS understands the importance of your holiday shipments,” the company said in a Christmas Day statement on its website.

“However, the volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity of our network immediately preceding Christmas so some shipments were delayed.” 

UPS acknowledged getting swamped by the seasonal cheer and failing to deliver thousands of orders in time for Christmas

UPS acknowledged getting swamped by the seasonal cheer and failing to deliver thousands of orders in time for Christmas

Amazon.com, one of UPS’s biggest clients, cited UPS’s “failure” in an apologetic email to customers Wednesday morning. UPS itself is on a condolences tour, telling NBC in a statement that only “a small percentage” of packages were affected and pledging that most of these will arrive by Thursday.

The last time a significant number of UPS packages were late for Christmas was 2004, when an ice storm crippled Worldport, the UPS distribution center in Louisville, Kentucky, in the run up to the holiday. Back then employees ended up manually loading packages for days, and surprising revelers with Christmas Day deliveries. This year the company declined to call its workers in for holiday service.

It’s still unclear where the UPS network broke down, and the company has declined to specify the size of the problem. But Bloomberg Businessweek detailed the challenges likely to have stymied Santa’s corporate helper this year – and spotlighted the man who may take a fall for the year’s mishaps.

Scott Abell is known as “Mr. Peak” to the brown-shirted faithful, and he spends his whole work year outlining the company’s holiday delivery plans, scrambling hundreds of planes and thousands of trucks from his office at Worldport.

Beyond icy weather, which reportedly hampered UPS distribution hubs, the company was likely squeezed by a smaller window for holiday shopping and a record number of e-purchases being pushed through at the last minute. There were just 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. At the same time, there was the continued growth of online shopping, which not only facilitates last-minute gifting but often rewards it with deeper discounts.

Online spending jumped 9%, to $37.8 billion, between November 1st and December 15th, according to the online research firm comScore, and retailers expect overall holiday sales to be up nearly 4%, exceeding $600 million.

UPS anticipated delivering 132 million bundles in the week before Christmas, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, and to meet that wave of holiday cheer, Scott Abell organized 55,000 part time workers, 23 extra planes and what amounts to a second fleet of delivery trucks.

A last-minute decision by one of UPS’s clients – reportedly Amazon.com – dumped additional packages into the system last weekend, but Scott Abell doubled the number of shifts at Worldport, still hoping to stay ahead. It wasn’t enough.

Scott Abell usually heads to Florida in January to play golf and decompress after the madness of the holidays. When he returns, the 31-year veteran of the company gathers his lieutenants for a special lemon session, detailing all that could have gone better in the weeks before.

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Santa Claus proved he can also travel by sea in the Florida Keys.

Santa, played by Keys dive shop operator Spencer Slate, took some time off from getting ready for his annual Christmas toy run to dive amid the marine life in Elbow Reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The yellowtail snapper, angelfish and other Florida Keys inhabitants seemed to appreciate the visit from St. Nick.

Santa took some time off from getting ready for his annual Christmas toy run to dive amid the marine life in Elbow Reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Santa took some time off from getting ready for his annual Christmas toy run to dive amid the marine life in Elbow Reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Spencer Slate has been donning the jolly man’s outfit for years to take the plunge but there is a serious side to his shenanigans. Dive customers frequently have the opportunity to have their photo taken with Santa for an extra fee and the revenue goes to a local children’s charity to fund gifts during the holiday season.

Elbow Reef is situated about six miles off Key Largo. The site features the wreck of the City of Washington, a late 1800s military supply vessel that was converted into a coal barge and sunk off Key Largo in 1917.

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Florida police officers stepped in to donate presents to a family whose Christmas gifts and dog were stolen Monday.

Tampa police say burglars broke into Melody Russell’s home, stole her two children’s gifts from under the tree and snatched the family’s puppy.

Melody Russell, a 33-year-old property manager, said the thieves broke in to her home northeast of downtown Tampa while she was at work Monday. She came home to find the back door open, all presents under the tree gone and Honey, their 12-week-old Shih Tzu, missing.

Florida police officers stepped in to donate presents to the family whose Christmas gifts and dog were stolen

Florida police officers stepped in to donate presents to the family whose Christmas gifts and dog were stolen

Her two children, 7-year-old Marissa and 5-year-old Marcus, were at her sister’s home when the burglary happened. Marissa cried for a half hour when Russell broke the news about Honey.

“My kids are so in love with that puppy,” she said.

The white and tan puppy did not yet have a microchip, Melody Russell said.

Melody Russell said she had bought a handful of modest gifts for each of her children – Nerf guns and slippers and Ninja turtle toys.

“Typical Christmas stuff,” said Melody Russell, who is a single mother.

“Nothing extravagant.”

Tampa Police are investigating the case – and they also tried to save Christmas for the Russell family.

Melody Russell said that after the officers wrote their reports and processed the crime scene at her home, she sat in the living room, praying to God for strength. It was 1 a.m. on Christmas Eve, she said, and the phone rang.

It was a Tampa Police officer, telling her that he and his entire squad were coming to her house with gifts.

When police dispatchers and Squad 204 heard about the theft, they quickly chipped in to buy Marissa and Marcus presents.

“Every single one of them had gifts in their hands,” Melody Russell said.

“I was so in shock.”

Each present was signed: “From Santa.”

The NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) is tracking Santa’s route around the world.

You can watch it too on www.noradsanta.org starting Christmas Eve.

The website also has games and activities, videos, music and more.

The official NORAD Tracks Santa app is also available in the Windows, Apple and Android stores. Tracking opportunities are also offered on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+.

NORAD Tracks Santa started in 1955

NORAD Tracks Santa started in 1955

Santa followers just need to type “@noradsanta” into each social media site to get started.

Starting Christmas Eve, website visitors can watch Santa make preparations for his flight through the Bing maps and Cesium technology to track Santa with NORAD in 2D and 3D.

Beginning at 5 a.m. Tuesday, trackers can speak with a live phone operator to ask about Santa’s whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to noradtracks [email protected]­.com.

NORAD Tracks Santa started in 1955 when a local media advertisement directed children to call Santa direct – only the number was misprinted. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone rang through to the Crew Commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center.

Thus began the tradition which NORAD carried on since it was created in 1958.

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Duck Dynasty’s Si Robertson has a novel approach for reading The Night Before Christmas by imagining his nephew Willie as jolly old St. Nick.

 “I don’t always see or hear things as well as I used to, and it is easy to mistake Willie for Santa. That is the basis for my new rendition of this holiday classic,” Si Robertson said.

Si Robertson has a novel approach for reading The Night Before Christmas by imagining his nephew Willie as jolly old St. Nick

Si Robertson has a novel approach for reading The Night Before Christmas by imagining his nephew Willie as jolly old St. Nick

“I mean, come on Jack! Willie needs to lose a few pounds and get the white out of his beard.”

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Passengers aboard two WestJet flights from southern Ontario to Calgary in November got their holiday gift wishes granted as they flew across Canada.

Before boarding, passengers were invited scan their boarding passes that allowed them to talk with a virtual Santa who asked them what they wanted for Christmas.  Hidden cameras recorded their gift requests.

Passengers aboard two WestJet flights from southern Ontario to Calgary in November got their holiday gift wishes granted as they flew across Canada

Passengers aboard two WestJet flights from southern Ontario to Calgary in November got their holiday gift wishes granted as they flew across Canada

Items on lists included trains and dolls from the kids, but some passengers asked for things such as a snowboard, a big-screen TV –even a Samsung Galaxy phone.

While the plane was in the air, over 150 “merry WestJetters” acted as Santa’s elves, rushing out to stores and nabbing the items on the passengers’ lists, according to a release from the Canadian-based WestJet.

By the time the flights landed four hours later, the 250 unsuspecting passengers were greeted by a festive display at baggage claim and were handed gifts they had asked for.

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The Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of Santa’s elves was achieved on December 8, 2013, in Iasi City, Romania.

A total of 1,073 people turned up at Iasi’s Palas shopping center to break the record.

The previous record was staged in Ammanford Town Centre in the UK, where 762 elves gathered on November 17, 2012.

The Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of Santa's elves was achieved on December 8, 2013, in Iasi City, Romania

The Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of Santa’s elves was achieved on December 8, 2013, in Iasi City, Romania

Most of the participants were high school students between 11 and 18. For their dance performance, they rehearsed more than 180 hours, over a six-week period.

The youngest participant was a four-month old baby.

The costumes were worked on for about three months and over three kilometers of fabric were used. Claire Burgess, the official representative of Guinness World Records, confirmed the record.

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The annual New York City Sidewalk Santa Parade has been canceled after more than a century due to rising costs involved in organizing the event.

The Sidewalk Santas, who for a century have marched up Fifth Avenue the morning after Thanksgiving to collect donations from Black Friday shoppers, are hanging up their suits.

NYC Sidewalk Santa Parade was an annual tradition organized by the Volunteers of America-Greater New York to raise money for its Hope & Hearth campaign, which last year gave over 1,200 families vouchers for groceries during the holiday season, communications director Rachel Weinstein said.

The annual New York City Sidewalk Santa Parade has been canceled after more than a century due to rising costs involved in organizing the event

The annual New York City Sidewalk Santa Parade has been canceled after more than a century due to rising costs involved in organizing the event

However, the one-day parade of about 50 bell-ringing volunteers never raised much money and the cost of storing, cleaning and transporting dozens of Santa suits was rising, Rachel Weinstein said.

“We wanted to expand the food voucher program and we needed to find ways to raise more money, and save money (where) we weren’t doing it before,” Rachel Weinstein said.

“In reality it wasn’t raising the money we need for this program.”

The tradition began in 1896 when Ballington Booth, the son of the Salvation Army founders, traveled by horse-drawn carriage across the city to deliver hot holiday meals to hungry New Yorkers.

With more hungry families in the city now than at any time since the Great Depression, Weinstein said cutting the parade costs was a practical decision. The group also takes private donations through its website, www.hopeandhearth.org.

Instead of the parade, the group has set up a collection bin at the Plaza Hotel to collect donations from the parents who bring their children to sit on the lap of the Plaza’s Santa.

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A Santa Claus was left dangling from the ceiling after his beard became trapped while abseiling inside Broad Street Mall in Reading, UK, as part of a Christmas lights switch-on show.

Santa was stuck for about 30 minutes about 15 ft off the ground in the Broad Street Mall on Saturday afternoon.

Eyewitness Ryan Gaudreau said: “Everyone was laughing at him – he didn’t really know what to do.”

Stephanie Maynard, marketing manager at the centre, said Santa was not hurt.

Santa Claus was left dangling from the ceiling after his beard became trapped while abseiling inside Broad Street Mall in Reading

Santa Claus was left dangling from the ceiling after his beard became trapped while abseiling inside Broad Street Mall in Reading

“He could have just taken his beard off and let himself down but he was such a professional and he didn’t want to let the children down,” she said.

“He lost his footing as he came through the hole in the ceiling and there was a sudden jolt and he got caught in the clip on the rope.

“Some people were absolutely mortified while others thought it was the funniest thing ever.

“They had to let another rope down and get him down and there was such a roar from the crowd.

“Usually after the lights switch-on the centre empties but there were so many people still there waiting to see if Father Christmas was going to get down.”

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Santa Claus, Ronald McDonald and a cast of thousands bring you the 79th Anniversary of the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade, marching down State Street on Thanksgiving Day, November 22nd, 2012.

Whether you’re moving your feet to the melodic carols of marching bands, gazing skyward at the gigantic inflatable helium balloons making their way down the street, or waving at talented entertainers in decorative floats dispensing holiday cheer, there is fun to be had by all at the biggest holiday parade in Chicago.

The McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade is the only parade in the city of Chicago to feature inflatable balloons every year.

Started in the times of the Great Depression, the Parade has been lifting the spirits of Chicago and bringing the community together in celebration. Over 400,000 people lines the parade route on State Street.

The 79th Anniversary of the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade will march down Chicago’s State Street on November 22nd, 2012

The 79th Anniversary of the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade will march down Chicago’s State Street on November 22nd, 2012

2012 McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade Chicago Facts

Date: Thursday, November 22, 2012 – Thanksgiving Day

Time: 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. CST.

Admission: free

Place: Downtown Chicago on State Street -from Congress to Randolph

Find more details here

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