Once again, in accordance with one of the North Pole’s longest surviving annual traditions, History’s Greatest Do-Gooders — men, women and children of all ages, shapes, sizes and cultures, representing all 21 Centuries — have answered the familiar summons here to the Grand Audience Chamber, the most elegant room here at Santa Claus’ Castle and Workshop, at the very Top of the World, beneath the Northernmost Star. The occasion: Santa’s annual “State of the Pole” Address, the traditional year-in-review commentary, wherein Sir Kringle, in addition to celebrating the various milestones and achievements that have shaped the Kringleverse during the preceding 12 months, also looks ahead to the coming year, as presented from a Clausian perspective.

Each year, as part of their personal preparations for State of the Pole, Santa and Mrs. Claus assume the duties of Their Most Royal Majesties, King Nicholas and Queen Vivianne, Lord and Lady Sovereigns of the Realm of Forever. Here, in the Grand Audience Chamber, King Nicholas personally welcomes those who, at the end of their allotted lifetime upon the Planet Earth, have proven themselves to be brave, truthful, and unselfish — the three most important requirements for permanent citizenship in the Realm of Forever.

The evening’s ceremony began as per usual, with the Grand Entry of the King and Queen. Santa, King Nicholas, wore the jewel-encrusted Royal Nicholean Crown, significant of his status as ruler of the Realm of Forever. This, of course, was a complement to his familiar long, flowing white beard. His outfit depicted him dressed in the style of an 18th Century General of the Turkish Army, an obvious reference to his origins in the village of Barra, so many aeons ago. Mrs. Claus, Queen Vivianne, wore the diamond-studded Consort’s Crown of Forever, along with a glorious red, white and green gown, festooned with pearls, diamonds, and emeralds. Completing Their Majesties’ outfits were two huge capes of royal crimson and ermine trim; and in their hands, the two Monarchs wielded fantastic Royal Sceptres, each constructed with elements reflecting the Christmas spirit.

As Nicholas and Vivianne took to their Thrones, Elder Gardiner Greene Hubbard, who, in his lifetime on Earth, had served faithfully as the First President of the National Geographic Society, opened the festivities by proclaiming: “Good People, I have the pleasure of herewith presenting unto you Their Majesties, King Nicholas and Queen Vivianne, Lord and Lady Sovereigns of our Distinguished Realm of Forever. Ye within the sound of my voice, are ye willing to heed and hear the words of the King?” The assembled audience responded in unison, uttering a mere four words: “So are we willing,” at which point silence befell the Grand Audience Chamber.

Thus properly satisfied that all was as he desired, King Nicholas rose from his Throne, and, with his boisterous voice, began to recite the text that he had painstakingly shaped into this, Santa Claus’ 2017 State of the Pole Address:

Greetings unto you, my faithful subjects, and greetings unto you as well, Believers throughout the Cosmos!

Well, as you good Mortals can imagine, the year has been indeed the proverbial rollercoaster. Adventures both good and, regrettably, bad have affected our world in ways that even I myself have not yet begun to fully grasp in the thinking. This, and the United States has someone new in the White House, too! Disturbances abounded with the State of the Pole in 2017, and now, as we do each December 23rd, we explore that which was and that which will be.

As usual, we begin by celebrating the World Santa Claus Congress in Klampenbourg, Denmark, a stone’s throw from Copenhagen. Here, each July, on the grounds of Bakken, the world’s oldest continuously operational amusement park, Santas, Mrs. Clauses and assorted Helpers assemble for three full days of frolic, festivity, and just plain good clean fun! And 2017’s Congress, marking the event’s 60th Anniversary, was probably the biggest Congress that Bakken fans and visitors had ever seen, with delegates from 15 nations in attendance. And happiest among that lot that day was Nyborg’s own Preben Mikkelsen, who had been chosen to wear the Great Mantle of the Santa Claus Kings of the World Santa Claus Congress, for his many years as Webmaster of the Danish Santa Claus Guild‘s official website, as well as Editor-in-chief of the Guild’s Official Newsletter! Cheers and salutations to him, and to all the Congress Delegates who took part in those three very exciting days! We look forward to going back to Bakken, so to speak, for World Santa Claus Congress #61 — July 23rd through 26th, 2018!

Adventures in our Kringleverse, sadly, are not necessarily all fun and games. As more and more of our target audience begins to rely on online retailing, the brick-and-mortar shopping industry struggles to keep up the pace, somehow failing miserably to do so. And to that end, it has now become for us a challenge to both adapt and evolve. Should we fail to live up to that mission, our very purpose for our continued survival will, put quite bluntly, disappear! What, then, do we do? We fight! Figuratively speaking, surely, but we fight nonetheless! Children continue to be our stock in trade, without question, but as Amazon, Netflix and others of their ilk rise up to become the dominant places for people to shop, browse, and even watch television and film, the struggle to revive ourselves as, shall I say, Christmas cocoons, as it were, becomes more and more the norm. How to change it all? To grow along with those changes, and persist as best we can. And I promise you all, I will fight right along with you, and stand as best as I can with every one of you. I believe that ultimately, it will be up to all of us in the Kringleverse to meet these challenges and meet them together.

In 2018, two significant events will take place that, should they succeed, will permit us to stand strong and find newer and better ways to rise to these new challenges. First, from April 18th through the 22nd, at the Omni Interlocken Resort and Conference Center in Broomfield, Colorado, workshops, lectures and panel discussions will serve as the primary centerpiece at the International Brotherhood of Real-Bearded Santa ClausesInternational Santa Claus Celebration. As at Bakken, the event will, one hopes, attract delegates and Santa fans from all over the world —- and some from places you never thought would be part of our equation! And in Cape Cod Irish Village in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts, the Northeastern Santa Claus Society will mark 15 years of fellowship, as their members attend their traditional Gathering, where unexpected surprises will be in store!

And on Thanksgiving Day Weekend of 2018, Philadelphia’s own Downtown Thanksgiving Day Parade will kick off a year-long countdown to its Centennial — making it one of America’s oldest, most popular Parades of its kind! Oh, I can’t wait to see how everything falls into place on that delicious morning!

As I must do when the time comes, I must present to you a new citizen to join us here in the Realm of Forever. Please permit me to share his tale:

In July of 1952, when he was only 13 years old, a young lad named Jimmy Boyd stepped into a recording studio, and recorded a song which, though most may find it a bit silly, has endured as one of the most popular novelty songs of its day: “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” words and music by Tom Connor. The tune hit the top of Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100 charts in December 1952, and has since gone on to be recorded by groups and soloists from young Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5ive to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons; and from Andy Williams to Jessica Simpson! The tune even inspired a 2001 Movie of the Week!

Last Saturday, Jimmy Boyd left his Mortal husk behind at a convalescent home in Santa Monica, California, at the age of 70. He is survived by a 28-year-old son, Devon James Boyd. And so, it is my honor and privilege to welcome Jimmy Boyd into our world: the Realm of Forever!

Now we come to another of our annual traditions which are part of my comments each year: our salute to Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses Parade. Lance Tibbett is the 2018 Rose Parade President, and for the parade theme, Lance has decided on an idea that might be a bit cliched for some of you: “Making a Difference.” Lance has his reasons, though, and here’s his explanation: “It’s a way to celebrate all those who, quietly, and without desiring reward or recognition, act in kind, selfless and generous ways to aid or benefit others.” That’s good enough for us here in the Realm of Forever, as far as I’m concerned; it’s certainly good enough for veteran character actor Gary Sinise, who has been named Rose Parade Grand Marshal. For over 40 years, Gary and his namesake Foundation have worked in support of Veterans of all wars, starting when he co-founded the Steppenwolf Theatre’s annual Vets’ Night Event in Chicago. But it was his most legendary role, that of Lieutenant Daniel Taylor in Robert Zemeckis’ film Forrest Gump, with Tom Hanks in the Oscar-winning title role, that struck a chord with veterans across the United States. Travelling across the country with his Lieutenant Dan Band, Gary reminds even us up here at the Top of the World that if you make at least ONE difference, you can, I think, give wonder where it’s needed.

I hear that there’s another milestone emerging from Pasadena: the 100th Anniversary Rose Parade Queen! The lucky lady getting that honor is named Isabella Marez; and her 100th Anniversary Rose Parade Princesses are: Alexandra Marie Altura, Savannah Rose Bradley, Lauren Buehner, Georgia Jane Cervenka, Julianne Elise Lauenstein and Sydney Grace Pickering. They’ll be journeying all across California as the City of Pasadena’s Official Goodwill Ambassadors, and for the balance of 2018, they’ll be, dare I say it, making lots and lots of differences, like all representatives of the Forces of Good ought to do!

Let’s see now, have I covered everything I wished to share with you all? I hope so. Even old King Nicholas is getting a bit forgetful these days! Ho ho ho!

But in all fairness, and in all seriousness, I must say this: childhood and innocence are ever at risk across the Multiverse, and the Realm of Forever is the last and truest line of defense against those who would seek to do harm to both. We must stay ever vigilant if we are to keep this thing running at all costs!

Well, boys and girls, I think that that should be as far as I dare to comment. So, ’tis time to return to my usual red-suited self and prepare the ol’ sleigh, and see what magical kind of trouble I can get into next. As ever, Vivianne and I thank you all for your continued faithfulness and loyalty, which makes this Kingdom so magical every Christmas season. So, until next December the 23rd…..