Continuing 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, once again answered the summons to make their presence known here in 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. And once again, Santa Claus delivered his 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 took a look ahead to the coming year, presented, as ever, from a uniquely Clausian perspective.

As always in preparing for each year’s State of the Pole, Santa and Mrs. Claus appeared in the roles of Their Most Royal Majesties, King Nicholas and Queen Vivianne, Lord and Lady Sovereigns of the Realm of Forever. It is here, in the Grand Audience Chamber, that 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, of course, with the Grand Entry of the King and Queen. Santa, King Nicholas, wore the jewel-encrusted Royal Nicholean Crown, emblematic of his duties as King of Forever. The Crown’s glittering festooning of crystals, diamonds and emeralds further complemented his long, flowing white beard. As was the case at the 2017 State of the Pole, Nicholas was dressed in an outfit that represented 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 bore the Royal Sceptres, each constructed with elements reflecting the Christmas spirit.

With Nicholas and Vivianne properly secured on their Thrones, Elder Gardiner Greene Hubbard, who, during his lifetime on Earth, was the Founding President of the National Geographic Society, opened the festivities hence: “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 then responded in unison, “So are we willing.” At that point, silence befell the Grand Audience Chamber, and King Nicholas rose from his Throne to recite Santa Claus’ 2018 State of the Pole Address:

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

Tragedy and triumph, victory and loss, courage and sacrifice: All of these, when put together, can sum up the State of the North Pole, 2018. In our Kringleverse, there was rising and falling, heroism and villainy, and obviously, Good and Evil. In short, my subjects, yet another rollercoaster of adventures both good and bad (mostly the latter), affected our world anew, and bringing us one step closer to daring to doubt our own ability to protect Happiness against Nastiness, and to do so in newer, more innovative ways — ways, that, even as I speak to you now, will challenge us as never before! 2019 promises to increase such challenges, and there will, no doubt, be newer and even stronger disturbances to challenge us. With this as our raison d’ertre, let us, as we do every December 23rd, explore the State of the Pole in 2018, and journey through that which was and that which will be.

We begin with the 61st World Santa Claus Congress in Klampenbourg, Denmark, a stone’s throw from Copenhagen. For more than six decades, each July, on the grounds of Bakken, the world’s oldest continuously operational amusement park, Santas, Mrs. Clauses and assorted Helpers have assembled for three full days of frolic, festivity, and just plain good clean fun! And 2018’s Congress successfully made good on its promise to top the previous year’s 60th Anniversary Congress, as young Simon Andersen, a/k/a Simon Brons, was crowned the youngest Kringle King in the history of das Dansk Julemands Laug, the Danish Santa Claus Guild, which each year co-organizes the Congress with the help of the good folks in Bakken. Alas, it was also a Congress that would be plagued by tragedy, when Bakken fans and visitors were alerted to the passing, shortly after the Congress had been closed, of Norwegian Delegate Fred Ostler, who had joined his fellow attendees from some 18 nations in attendance at the Congress, after having appeared earlier in April at the International Santa Gathering at Denver, Colorado. We mourn Fred’s loss, and in so doing, we celebrate all the Congress’ Delegates who took part in those three very exciting days! The 62nd World Santa Claus Congress occurs July 22nd through 25th, 2019. May we all find our way there in joy!

As I said, adventures in our Kringleverse are not all fun and games. The more our target audience relies on online retailing, the more the brick-and-mortar shopping industry will continue to attempt to keep up the pace, making our challenge to adapt and evolve stronger, sometimes far more difficult, than ever before. This horrible truth was made clear to us in May with the closing and subsequent liquidation of the once powerful Toys R Us, the greatest toy retailer in our cosmos, followed by the passing of that entity’s founding father, Charles Lazarus, who had begun the business as “the Children’s Bargain Town.” But not even Toys R Us could hope to withstand the combined forces of Google, Amazon, Netflix and others of their kind. And so, once again, we are left to rise to the challenge to fight: fight for our continued survival, fight for our continued dignity, fight for our continued relevancy in an otherwise digital cosmos. Again, Amazon, with its Prime Network and Amazon Motion Picture Studios, and Netflix, with its ongoing combo of film, video, and streaming, continue as Earth’s dominant places to shop, browse, and watch every known and unknown form of media. But as always, we will persist, as we always will, and you know, of course, that I shall always be at your side to revive that struggle right along with you, and so, too, as I have just recently learned, will the newly rebirthed FAO Schwarz, arisen, like the Phoenix from its ashes, at Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center, challenged only by a LEGO Store across the way. The new FAO will, I hope, convince us all of how we must stay vigilant, and how we must struggle every day to maintain all these newer, stronger challenges, and to do so together.

In March 2019, the Kringleverse will once more focus on Gatlinburg, Tennessee’s Convention Center. Here, the 10th Anniversary Santa Claus Family Reunion will be one more significant event that can put to the test the ways whereby the future of Santa’s world is looked upon. Workshops, seminars, lectures and panel discussions will be the order of the day, as delegates and Santa fans from all over the world gather to pass unto the young what the old have learned! And then, will come April 23rd through 25th, when the Grand Hyatt Hotel and Conference Center in Buckhead, Georgia, a mere stone’s throw away from Atlanta, will host the 2020 International Santa Claus Gathering. Here too, as at Denver, Kringles, Mrs. Clauses, Elves, Helpers, Pixies, and various interested others will assemble for a new weekend’s worth of fantastic activities, from workshops and lectures to seminars and fashion shows, from special guest speakers, to tales both old and new — these are the things we all look forward to, and I can assure you we here in Forever will be keeping watch!

Meanwhile, at Cape Cod Irish Village in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts, the Northeastern Santa Claus Society will toast another year of fellowship at their own Gathering, where, as usual, unexpected surprises lie in store!

Thanksgiving Day Weekend of 2019 sees Philadelphia celebrating the Centennial 6abc/Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day Parade! (That would be WPVI-TV, Philadelphia, in case there are some here this evening who are quite unfamiliar with the concept of television.) Believe me when I tell you it promises to be the most fantastic Christmas celebration anyone has ever experienced!

2018 was, as I mentioned previously, a time for triumph and tragedy —- but it was also a year to have ginormous FUN! And I could not have thought up a better means of having that fun than with Netflix’s delicious original epic, The Christmas Chronicles! I have to hand it to director Clay Kaytis and writers Matt Lieberman and David Guggenheim for taking Kurt Russell behind the scenes, whipping him into shape, transforming him into the most super-savvy Santa Claus in living memory, and making that film into one of the most popularly streamed movies in Netflix’s history! Why, I would not be surprised if there are folks out there who would be wanting to watch that film even in the off-season! Ho ho ho! If I may: Christmas Chronicles 2, anyone?

Now, we come to another of our annual traditions which are a primary part of my comments each year: our salute to Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses Parade. This year’s Parade theme, “The Melody of Life,” celebrates music and its constant abilities to bring the world together. Toward that end, 10-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Chaka Khan has been selected as Parade Grand Marshal, and she will also kick off the Parade with a fantastic opening number! Chaka’s nonprofit namesake Foundation continues to educate, empower, and inspire children of all ages all over the world, just as we try to do here in Forever. The Chaka Khan Foundation’s Chaka Believes Initiative also helps youngsters across the Greater Los Angeles Basin by providing children who are either at risk or are suffering from autism and other developmental diseases, or are simply in need, with the ability to fulfill their dreams and at the same time give back to their own communities. That, of course, is good enough for us here in the Realm of Forever, and I’m so pleased to be able to salute that valiant effort!

Our tribute to the doings in Pasadena is never complete without saluting the Tournament of Roses Queen, and this time, her name is Louise Siskel! Louise and her Court, Princesses Helen Rossi, Rucha Kadam, Lauren Baydaline, Micaela Sue McElrath, Sherry Ma and Ashley Hackett, will be traveling through California as the City of Pasadena’s Official Goodwill Ambassadors, and, one hopes, go about helping all Californians in making their own kind of music!

A few last thoughts now, before I begin my customary briefing with my NORAD amigos at Colorado Springs: as in previous years, Childhood and Innocence continue to remain at risk, and those who have been entrusted with defending both at all costs are up against the same burdens as ours own burdens here in the Realm of Forever. As the last, truest line of defense against those who would seek to do harm to both, we need now to prepare to become even more vigilant in our constant, unending struggle against the Forces of Doubt. That challenge must not be taken lightly, and so, Vivianne and I pledge, as we have always done, that we will stay true to inspiring you to rise to those challenges, so that someday soon, you, too, can pass on that which you have learned!

Well, enough nonsense, boys and girls! The time is at hand when I must return to my familiar red suit, and prepare for tomorrow evening’s journey around the world. We, the Royals of Forever, once more thank you for your trust, for your faithfulness, for your loyalty. All these things, and so much more, will never cease to make this Kingdom so magical with every new Christmas season. And on those merry thoughts, until next December the 23rd…..