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Keeping track of Santa

www.santatracker.com/html/ santatrack.html

Santa's progress is here observed with military precision. Departure from the North Pole on 24 December will be video-monitored, the reindeers radar-tracked, and meteorological reports constantly updated.

The site features real-time sleigh systems evaluation and even a special night-vision facility. Special flashing alerts will warn viewers as he zeros in to make his home deliveries.

Jollier, if less topical, thrills at Claus Com's animated theme park (www2.claus.com), where kids anxiously awaiting their stocking can check their personal "naughty" or "nice" rating in advance. Another hopeful (www.santa-claus.com) chuckles away while claiming to have been online since 1672. Meanwhile, Lycos offers a Java Race Your Reindeers game (www.lycos.co.uk/webguides/special/xmas/race/index.html).

Simplify the festive hols

www.newdream.org/holiday

Conspicuous Christmas consumption is under attack at this site: the US produces five million extra tons of rubbish over the festive period and this site suggests creating less waste.

Visitors send in unusual, ecologically sound gift ideas - "my parents sponsored a panther in my name at the zoo" - and there are proposals for gifts of time rather than money, as well as some rather strained alternative carols. Also on patrol is a Commercialism Cop to bust premature seasonal mania, such as the Maryland shop which put up its tree in July.

Links lead to other recycled presents, such as the ever-popular ornaments made from freebie AOL CDs (www.neosoft.com/nikki), which this year include a Nativity Scene and a Jingle Bell Necklace.

Frankenfurby is promised

www. game.com/furby/index.html

Christmas is a time of worldwide communication, and where Esperanto failed, the Furby could well succeed. The official site for this year's hard-to- get toy includes a Furbish dictionary - with sound clips (happy = noo- loo; tickle = nee-tye; maybe, oddly enough, = may-bee) - and the chance to send a festive shot of one of the furry pests posing in front of the Taj Mahal.

As no one actually believes in Santa anymore, this year's dose of disillusionment could perhaps come from the Furby Autopsy Site (www.phobe.com/furby), which gives instructions for unpeeling skin, ears and carapace, right down to the motor and CPU. One specimen is being kept on ice before being modified, using electric cooker parts, and resurrected as Frankenfurby. "We find him much more amusing dead thanalive," muse the webmeisters.

Praying by fingers

www.cofe.anglican.org

Not much sign of Christmas here as yet. The self-proclaimed "young and modest", though well-designed, official site includes a brief history of the church and its organisation; key statistics; and will soon offer sections ranging from major social issues to planning one's own funeral. As well as a daily online service, there is also personal advice on "How to Pray", with suggestions for using each finger to represent different prayer goals - digital worship in its most literal sense. But some of the ideas sound a bit New Agey: focusing on a feather is recommended. Links lead to individual diocesan and other sites: for more C of E news and discussion try Anglicans Online (anglican.org/online).

Iraq's touch of peace

christmas.com/worldview

Click on a map for accounts of celebrations worldwide, at this newly enlarged section of this otherwise elf-infested site.

Lots of fascinating detail - Icelanders, it seems, believe in 13 Santas, all descended from the mythical Gryla the Ogre. And interesting festive grub includes figgy pudding and Finnish kaffi bulla to raw oysters.

Too often country links lead to a dead end - "We are currently looking for contributions for Myanmar (Burma)".

But there remains much multicultural variety, as well as some universal aspirations: "In Iraq... after the service, the bishop blesses one person with a touch. Then that person touches the person next to him or her. Finally everyone has the `touch of peace' on Christmas Day."

But nothing, of course, about US cruise missiles to celebrate the start of Ramadan.

Send interesting, quirky or, at a pinch, cool site recommendations to websites@dircon.co.uk

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