Metro

Expat kids get the chance to connect with Santa

By Todd Balazovic and Li Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-17 08:00
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 Expat kids get the chance to connect with Santa

Two staff members from the Jianguomen Branch Office of Beijing Post present the special Christmas greeting cards. Wang Jing / China Daily

The capital's children won't have to rely on Rudolph to bring Father Christmas to Beijing this year, Santa has joined the Internet age.

The portly, bearded man in red is not only checking his list, but his e-mail as well.

A free Christmas service launched last week by Santa's little helpers at the China Trade Commission (CTC) in Beijing is giving children the chance to chat with Saint Nicholas by e-mail and over the phone.

"Santa will call them to ask if they've been getting good grades and if they've been helping out mom and dad. The children will get an e-mail, confirming they're on the nice list," said Anthony Demarco, executive director of the CTC. "Some of the kids will confess - others will swear they've been good."

For Jimmy Rodgers, an American software engineer who is married with a 7-year-old daughter, Susana, the call was a reminder of home.

"Christmas is a little awkward here," he said.

Susana received her second phone call from Santa on Monday evening.

"It made my daughter light up like a light bulb," he said. "She was thrilled to think that he remembered her out of the millions of children."

After talking on the phone, children will have the chance to meet Santa after Dec 7 at seven locations throughout Beijing, including the Solana and Wanfujing shopping areas, where they can have their picture taken with him.

Demarco of the CTC said the organization started the service last year after noticing a big gap in what was being offered for foreign children.

"We notice a lot of foreign kids here don't have the same traditions available as at home," he said.

While the service is offered in English, French, Spanish and Italian and was initially aimed at expat children, it is also offered in Chinese because there has been a lot of interest from local children.

The result was more than 2,300 Santa calls last Christmas.

Following last year's success, Demarco said the CTC is looking to expand the number of volunteers from three to eight and make 5,000 calls.

"It's a great way to get the entire city involved in the Christmas cheer," he said.

Parents looking to take advantage of the free service can e-mail meetsantaclaus@gmail.com.

Though Santa may have gone digital, he will also show his more traditional side, offering both children and adults the chance to receive mail the old-fashioned way, via China Post.

Radiant reds joined the trademark green of China Post, as Beijing opened the nation's first Christmas Post Office.

Decorated with a brilliant Christmas tree and snow-capped red house, the Jianguomen Branch Office of Beijing Post is offering the special Christmas service.

Christmas greeting cards, priced from 10 yuan can be dropped in a special mailbox at the office and will be sent to Santa Village in Finland where they will be postmarked with Finnish 2010 Christmas stamps and signed by Santa Claus before they are delivered back to the people who sent them.

"There are three kinds of cards, 10 yuan, 20 yuan and 40 yuan. Those who receive the 40-yuan cards will have the chance to get a Christmas gift package. But the gifts have to be claimed in the office with the card," said Wang Xue, director of the Jianguomen office.

The service is great fun, said 27-year-old Wang Lin who works at a neighboring embassy.

"My girlfriend will be surprised when she receives her card," Lin said.

And Wu Jing, who is in her 20s, told METRO she is hoping to get a card back on Christmas Day with good luck from Santa Claus.

The Christmas Post Office opened on Nov 5 and is a joint venture between Beijing International Post and the Finland Embassy.

China Daily

(China Daily 11/17/2010)