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, have 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 prepares to deliver 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 looks ahead to the coming year, presented, as one might expect, from a uniquely Clausian perspective.

As is their tradition in preparing for each year’s State of the Pole Address, Santa and Mrs. Claus assume the personae 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 begins, as usual, with the Grand Entry of the King and Queen. Santa, King Nicholas, wears 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 complements his long, flowing white beard. As occurred previously at the 2017 State of the Pole, Nicholas also wears an outfit that represents 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, wears 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 are two huge capes of royal crimson and ermine trim; and in their hands, the two Monarchs bear the Royal Sceptres, each constructed with elements reflecting the Christmas spirit.

Now, Nicholas and Vivianne are properly secured on their Thrones, and upward steps Elder Gardiner Greene Hubbard, who, during his lifetime on Earth, was the Founding President of the National Geographic Society. Hubbard now addresses the assembled spectators, “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 audience responds in unison, “So are we willing.” At last, a hush befalls the Grand Audience Chamber, and King Nicholas rises from his Throne and recites Santa Claus’ 2019 State of the Pole Address:

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

Tragedy, triumph, victory, loss, courage, sacrifice: Once again, these elements are enough to sum up the State of the North Pole, 2019. Yes, my subjects, here in our Kringleverse was another year of rising and falling, of heroism and villainy, and obviously, of Good and of Evil. And again, our world stands affected by the simple truth that we must maintain constant vigilance in our pursuit of protecting Happiness against Nastiness, and to do so in ways that keep challenging us, and forcing us to rise to each new challenge! 2020 will no doubt make the game far more tougher than previously, but Vivianne and I have every faith in you all, as we always have. So, having said all of that, let us, as we do every December 23rd, explore the State of the Pole in 2019, and journey through that which was and that which will be.

We begin, as we usually do, with the 62nd 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 four full days of frolic, festivity, and just plain good clean fun! And 2019’s Congress had quite an unmissable Kringle King in Esbjerg’s Michael Koed, thanks to our good friends at 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. Those were indeed four very exciting days, where not only were things considered business as usual, but as one might expect, there was lots and lots of good, clean fun! And for all who were part of the merriment of Bakken, that is precisely as it should be. The 63rd World Santa Claus Congress occurs July 20th through 23rd, 2020. I do hope again, as I have long hoped, that we shall all find our way there in joy!

As you know, adventures in our Kringleverse are not necessarily 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. The major culmination of all this is the recent opening of the first phase of the American Dream Mall, in the beautiful Meadowlands Region of East Rutherford, New Jersey. This luxury retail fashion, dining and entertainment venue, fronted by a combination indoor theme park and water kingdom, for now remains unprepared for its first Christmas season, but it can be hoped that a new realm will rise here: a realm that can withstand the mighty challenges of Google, Amazon, Netflix and others of their kind. Here, too, we face the dawn of another long-awaited event that will impact our Kringleverse: the coming of Disney+, a land that boasts of all the worlds of Mickey’s lands, brought together in one place. As I know you’re aware, the battle for our continued dignity will not be an easy struggle, as once again we wage another battle for our ongoing relevancy in this digital cosmos. There will, alas, be one key element missing: As you know, in January, Lord & Taylor shut down its Fifth Avenue location. As was the case with the beloved Lever House Christmas Carousel, so too, the fall of the Lord & Taylor Christmas Windows heralds a newer, and sadder, chapter in our Quest. Still, as always, we must persist, and you know, of course, that I shall remain at your side to keep that struggle going! I’m sure that FAO Schwarz, continuing its residency at Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center, with the LEGO Store playing happily along across the way, will keep us properly convinced as to how we must stay vigilant, and how we must pick up the pace, pass our wisdom along to our newcomers, and mostly get things done, as we always do, together.

Between April 23rd through 25th, 2020, the Kringleverse will see a new coming together in Buckhead, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. Here, the 2020 International Santa Claus Gathering at the Grand Hyatt Hotel and Conference Center, promises to be yet another 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! Here as well, just as in prior seasons, 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 has found Philadelphia celebrating the Centennial 6abc/Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day Parade! (That’s WPVI-TV, Philadelphia, in case you’re still unfamiliar with the idea of television.) Indeed, a glorious party like this could only happen once in a Century —- and when number 101 comes together on Thanksgiving morning in the City of Brotherly Love, well — methinks we are in for quite another fantastic Christmas celebration, to say the least!

2019 was, like 2018 before it, a time for triumph and tragedy —- but, again like 2018, 2019 was also a year for 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! Indeed, as even as I utter these words, Christmas Chronicles 2 is in the works, with Kurt again starring, and Chris Columbus directing as well as executive producing! Clearly, Vivianne and I can’t wait to see if it happens! Ho ho ho! Forgive me, my subjects, but there are a few things about being King Nicholas that just make me feel so ticklish from within!

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 is “The Power of Hope,” because, as Parade President Laura Palmer will tell you, “Hope never, EVER quits!” Here in the Realm of Forever, of course, we don’t quit either! And when you have 2016 Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Gold Medalist Laurie Hernandez, actress and comedienne Gina Torres, and multiple award-winning actress Rita Moreno as your Grand Marshals, I’m willing to bet that that Hope will be a whole lot stronger.

Of course, we always pay proper homage to the Tournament of Roses Queen, and in 2020, the Throne belongs to Camille Kennedy! Camille and her Court, Princesses Cole Fox, Emilie Risha, Rukan Saif, Reese Rosenthal Saporito, Mia Thorsen and Michael Wilkins, will be traveling through California all year long as the City of Pasadena’s Official Goodwill Ambassadors, and, one hopes, go about spreading the seeds of Hope to everyone in California!

Well, I guess it’s just about time for this Jolly Old King to go and network with the crew at NORAD in Colorado Springs! Before I do, though, these last few thoughts, as in previous years: you know how much we fight each holiday to defend Childhood and Innocence; and you know, too, that those who defending both take on practically the same burdens as ours here in the Realm of Forever. Being the last true line of defense against those who would do harm to both, it’s time again to prepare to stay even more vigilant in keeping up our conflict against the Forces of Doubt. And you know, too, that Vivianne and I never take that challenge lightly, so count on us, as you’ve always done, to stay true to inspiring you to rise to those challenges, so that in time, you, too, can pass on that which you have learned!

Well, that’s it, then. Best to get back into the ol’ red suit, and get Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph ready for tomorrow evening’s journey around the world. As the Royals of Forever, Vivianne and I thank you once more 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. Still, you can’t help but imagine how wonderful it all is once I get back to the Pole — and I’m sure that my good and loyal Queen will be ready to reward me with yet another, as I’ve recently been known to utter, “beeg Kringle kees!” Ho ho ho! See you all next December the 23rd, kids!