Back in 1897, an eight-year-old asked her father if Santa Claus really existed. It's a question that strikes terror and fear inside the hearts of many parents who spend a lot of time and effort putting together a series of events and traditions surrounding the chubby guy in the red suit. Her name was Virginia O'Hanlon and her father suggested she write a letter to New York's Sun newspaper and if it responded, whatever answer it printed would be the truth - or the proof.
The question and answer were printed in the paper, with an editorial written by Francis Pharcellus Church who included that famous line: "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." The story has since gone on to become a book and a television series and even part of a major retailer's campaign surrounding the idea that jolly old Saint Nick is true and real.
In 2013, it would be a little more difficult to convince a child about the existence of a legend started in the 1800s. The proof, as it were, has to be a little more convincing than an editorial I'm afraid. With the way kids have gone all high-tech with their iPads, iPhones, and tablets in a connected world it will take more than a static picture or article to convince them. However why not use the technology they love so much to provide them the proof they need?
Toronto agency Zulu Alpha Kilo has created the ultimate "proof of Santa" app. Called Kringl, you can download it for free at kringlapp.com. Available on iOS devices (such as the iPad or iPhone) or Android, this download may make all the difference in your home as to the existence of Santa.
Kringl allows you to choose from various scenes of Santa, from him opening up his bag of presents to consuming cookies and milk. Using the built-in camera on your device you set the scene of Santa standing in front of your tree or your fireplace or your kitchen. You can pitch and zoom Santa to just the right size to fit the scene and approximately 10 seconds of video are generated with him in your environment. The finished video can then be played back on the device or shared via Facebook, Twitter, etc. The results are quite convincing.
It's a great idea and it works well. Santa even renders the appropriate shadows on the floor and the lighting can be adjusted to fit the environment to complete the illusion. We all know the real Santa is really busy this time of year so a stand-in is required and this one fits the bill quite nicely. Although it's free, the app also includes a chance for you to donate to the Make-A-Wish foundation which helps make many children's Christmas a lot better this time of year.
Of course, you can also help keep the magic alive and fresh by keeping track of Santa on Christmas Eve as he treks his way around the world. Noradsanta.org is more than just a tracker, however, with various games and other activities to keep young ones entertained for hours. There are other iOS apps available as well such as Santa Tracker North Pole Command Center (Android has Santa Tracker - 2013) and while these apps cost a couple of dollars, the memories and smiles they will likely create are absolutely priceless.
If Virginia were still around today, her father might have used an app to help her believe in the existence of Santa Claus. Or he might have done what others do and remind children (and parents too) that the spirit of the holiday season is really to be kind to one another and be as generous as possible with our own personal resources - whatever that might mean. It's a time to laugh a little easier, forgive a little quicker, be kinder to one another, and drink a lot of egg nog.
Syd Bolton is the curator of the Personal Computer Museum and the manager of Information Technology at ACIC / Methapharm. You can reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail care of The Brantford Expositor.