Who is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? And what does he want?!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a pretty important fixture in this whole Christmas celebration. But who exactly is Rudolph and why is he so special that there was a song that was written about him. We sent our investigative journalists out on the trail of Rudolph and here is what they found.

Who: Well, wouldn’t you know it that Rudolph has his origins in corporate America?! He made his debut in a 1939 advertisement in the form of a coloring book with a poem, published by the American department store chain, Montgomery Ward. He’s known as Santa’s ninth reindeer, although he really deserves top billing since his nose is so bright, he can provide enough lighting for Santa to navigate.

What: Rudolph has become a franchise of sorts, since his creation some 70+ years ago. Rudolph has earned his place in American Christmas tradition with his own song, television special and cinematic film.

Where: The red-nosed reindeer makes his home with Santa Claus and the other reindeer at the North Pole. There’s no word on if the other reindeer have a problem tolerating Rudolph’s celebrity, although the chance that there are some jealous reindeer on Santa’s crew is highly likely.

How: In the real world, reindeer cannot fly. But Rudolph along with Santa’s other reindeer have been blessed with the ability to fly. And of course, Rudolph’s nose is red and gives off such a bright beacon of light that Santa is able to see where he’s goling as he delivers presents on Christmas Eve. The doubting Thomas in the crowd might raise an eyebrow at Rudolph’s skills and talents.

Why: Why Rudolph?! Why not?! Can you even name the other eight reindeer? Maybe you know a few of their names, but Rudolph might be the most popular reindeer in the world. Plus he’s Santa Claus’ right-hand man. How could you not love Rudolph?!

Christmas traditions

Christmas is a time to reflect, reconnect with friends and family and celebrate all the wonderful things in our lives. Here are some of the many ways families in America celebrate the holiday by way of Christmas traditions.

Decorating house with lights – High electric bills be damned! Putting up the Christmas lights usually starts happening right after Thanksgiving. Taking them down afterwards is a different story.

Leaving milk/cookies for Santa – This might be the quintessential Christmas tradition. The kids love it (and presumably the parents, er, Santa, enjoys it as well).

Volunteering – Many people feel Christmas is a time to give back to their community and will volunteer serving meals and helping those in need.

Christmas caroling – If you don’t mind a roaming pack of singers showing up on your doorstep and belting out a song, you will love it. If you’re in a cranky mood and carolers start knocking on the door, you may not answer, you Scrooge.

Cookie swap – Christmas cookies are in abundance during the holiday season, which is why co-workers and friends often participate in cookie swaps. What’s not to love?!

Christmas cards – A tradition that predates e-mail is sending out Christmas cards along with a letter inside that recaps what the family has been up to the past year.

The Nutcracker – Going to the local theater (or dressing up and trekking into the big city) to go see The Nutcracker is a Christmas tradition for those with young kids. It’s unclear why we make kids sit through The Nutcracker, but so be it.

Opening one gift on Christmas Eve – Only because the kids bug parents incessantly do the little ones get to open one of their presents on Christmas Eve. Can’t they just wait? (No, they can’t!)

Going to pick out a Christmas tree – This is one tradition that seems like a good idea. But once you’re at the tree farm and you’ve somehow got to strap a 15-foot tree to the roof of your car, you will ask yourself why you didn’t stick with an artificial tree.

Collecting ornaments – Decorating the Christmas tree is a tradition in and of itself. So is buying a new ornament every year and adding it to the collection. At some point your basement becomes cluttered with these things, but that is what green and red storage bins are for.

Other Christmas traditions in America include watching football, going to the local Christmas parade, setting up nativity scenes in the front yard, driving around looking at lights on houses, reading Christmas stories before bed on Christmas Eve, attending midnight mass and of course, wishing for a White Christmas.

Tracking Santa on Christmas Eve

For children, there may be no more exciting time than Christmas Eve and, of course, Christmas Day. Part of the Christmas tradition includes leaving Santa a glass of milk and plate of cookies. And tracking Santa’s journey on Christmas Eve as he delivers presents all over the world is also part of the excitement. Here are some of the easiest ways to track Santa on Christmas Eve.

The granddaddy of all Santa trackers is the NORAD Tracks Santa website. It provides a Santa Cam and up-to-the-hour updates of Santa’s whereabouts. Would you believe that there is also a NORAD Santa Tracker podcast? Ho, ho, ho, you better believe it! Download it for free from iTunes.

For a fully immersed Santa Claus experience, point your web browser to santaclaus.net and track Santa as well as play games, get the weather at the North Pole or get to know Santa’s reindeer.

The Santa-T website  is a little more basic and might be suited for the younger Christmas crowd. You can track Santa, play with the reindeer and even send Santa wish list suggestions. There’s also a countdown clock that tells you the precise moment Santa will arrive at your house.

And it wouldn’t be Christmas without iPhone and iPad apps. This Santa Tracker has 7-in-1 features for the iPhone. And for those with the iPad, the Santa GPS app looks like it is a fun way to keep tabs on old St. Nick.

You might have luck trying Google’s homepage on Christmas Eve as the elves over there usually seem to get in the holiday spirit and serve up a Santa tracker of their own.

Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas!

Christmas Around the World

Christmas. It’s the quintessential Christian holiday, not just here in America, but around the world. And with growing numbers of non-Christians celebrating it as enthusiastically as Christians, you could say that Christmas has become a truly global phenomenon. Here’s a look at 10 different ways Christmas is celebrated around the world.

Japan – Only 1% of the Japanese population is Christian, but that doesn’t stop them from getting into the Christmas spirit. They buy Christmas trees, flock to the malls to buy presents and, on December 25, get together for large family meals of fried chicken, and sponge cake with strawberries and whipped cream.

India – Even in one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world, Christmas is a major holiday celebrated by nearly everyone. Festivities begin about a week before December 25, with people buying gifts and hanging decorations. On Christmas Eve, throngs of carollers take to the streets and thoroughfares to fill the air with song.

Netherlands – Christmas begins on the last Saturday of November and culminates on December 5, when St. Nicholas is believed (at least by children) to sail in from Spain with his trusty pal Black Peter. Together, they fill children’s little wooden shoes with gifts. After opening presents, families settle down to luxurious meals of North Sea shrimp; smoked fish (especially salmon and eel); soup; roast or stewed poultry or meat, such as duck, wild boar or venison; and choice seasonal vegetables.

Russia – Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Christmas has become a major holiday in Russia. It’s celebrated on January 7. Many Russians abstain from eating meat, eggs or milk for a few weeks before Christmas. They also fast until after the first church service on Christmas Eve. On Christmas day, priests visit homes and sprinkle water in each room—a custom that’s believed to bring happiness and good fortune.

Croatia – Festivities begin in earnest here on St. Lucy’s Day (December 13), when the mothers or female heads of families plant wheat seeds in shallow water on round plates. The seeds germinate and grow up to eight inches high by December 24 and are tied with red, blue and white ribbons, the colors of the Croatian flag.

Australia – Dazzling festivities and fervor put Australian Christmases on par with cities such as New York, London, Paris and Vancouver. Public celebrations on Christmas Eve include a free Carols by Candlelight concert that brings in 70,000 – 100,000 attendees and nearly two million television viewers. Because of the warm climate, many Australians head out to Bondi Beach or other outdoor locations after opening their presents Christmas morning.

Brazil – Known as dia de festas, Christmas in Brazil is much like it is here in America. Brazilians attend Midnight Mass (Missa do Galo), decorate their homes with Christmas trees, and go caroling and open presents the morning of December 25. A traditional Christmas dinner in Brazil includes turkey, ham, colored rice and fresh fruits and vegetables.

China – Though it’s not legally a holiday, Christmas in China is rapidly gaining popularity, especially as the country becomes more of an economic super power and open to Western traditions. Gift giving is a major part of Christmas in China, as is spending time with loved ones and hanging decorations.

England – Advent marks the beginning of Christmas in the UK. Britons decorate their homes with holly wreaths adorned with candles—three pink, one white and one purple. They also decorate their Christmas trees, and on December 25, Father Christmas (their equivalent of Santa Claus) brings presents for all the good girls and boys.

Africa – Christmas is celebrated far and wide on the African continent on January 7. From Ghana to South Africa, Africa is filled with people caroling, exchanging gifts, attending church and spending time with family and friends. Holiday meals in Africa include roasted goat, rice, okra soup, biscuits, bread, jam and tea.