Don't bother sending your last-minute Christmas stocking lists for Santa Claus to some imaginary address in Finland. Just post them in the alt.religion.santaism forum. Old Santa is a modern kind of chap and he surfs the Net like everybody else. And he checks his newsgroup every day.

Patrick, posting from America, was very hopeful. He was asking the jolly bearded one for an action man, an alarm clock, a race track, a skateboard, a remote control boat and a speed bike, among other things. No concern for how Santa will squeeze this bag of goodies down the chimney. But Daniel, writing from South Africa, thought Patrick was letting his hopes rise a little too high. Has Patrick "been a good boy during the whole year?" Daniel asked. "It helps to have been veeeery veeeery good with such a long list."

You have no chance of having your wishes fulfilled if you are a spammer who fills people's e-mail boxes with electronic garbage. "Rest assured, Spammers will get nothing but coal on Dec 25," promises a correspondent from Wales. However, the animal rights activists were not keen on that idea. "Coal? COAL???? You mean those poor reindeer are going to be forced to drag COAL in the sleigh as well as everything else?" complained someone from that well-known organisation the Reindeer Liberation Front. "This is blatant reindeer abuse, and we're going to do Santa in for it. If we catch him on the 24th, we'll break his legs!"

Christmas would not be Christmas without someone ranting on about just how awful it is, etc, etc. "Commercialism, Conformity and Christmas" was the stunningly original title for one Yuletide onslaught posted in the forum. "Yes, it's that time of year again," he began. "We drag the decorations out from the attic, and scatter them about our homes in hope the neighbors will find them attractive ... a sickly tree, tacky blinking lights. Ah, the splendor of the holiday season." Oooh, controversial.

"Did you know that Santa Claus was originally a Pagan figure-head?" he continues. "Yes, it's true. Christmas is nothing more than a Pagan holiday!" Never! This guy is well informed, but perhaps there is another reason for his overdone attempts to be cynical about Christmas. He later admits: "It's funny when you look back at things; I used to believe in Santa."

Andrew North