Have a holly, jolly online Christmas with these tech resources

With many traditional activities curbed, you can still safely click into the festive spirit

Google’s Santa Tracker lets you build a whole Santa village

Google’s Santa Tracker lets you build a whole Santa village


’Tis the season to be jolly, but this year it will be in a socially distant way. The 12 pubs of Christmas has been replaced with the five levels of restrictions. Last-minute Christmas shopping in 2020 means frantically trying to place online orders before December 17th, without a crowd in sight. Santa visits are drive-bys or virtual grottos.

It’s safe to say this will be a Christmas we never forget. But there are plenty of online resources to make sure that we can still enjoy ourselves – responsibly – this Christmas.


For many families, Christmas means a trip to a grotto to marvel at elves, get a photo with Santa and find out if they are on the naughty or nice list. But 2020 is different. While some Santa experiences had to cancel altogether, others moved to a drive-through or a socially distant grotto to make sure everyone was sticking to the Covid guidelines.

If you would rather not risk even socially distant mixing with people, though, there are other options. You can opt for an interactive Santa experience, whether it is a personalised Zoom call, a video message or peeking in on one of the many webcams that offer you a glimpse on what Santa and the elves have been up to.

Elf Town

Virtual Santa visits are so 2020. Elf Town in Galway is doing the full shebang: a live feed to Santa’s North Pole grotto, a chat over video link with Santa himself, and a special Elf Town coin for each child on the visit posted to them, along with an official postal invite to the video session. Sessions are limited this close to Christmas, but there are still a couple of slots available. The pre-recorded Zoom messages from Santa to children are all booked out.


Portable North Pole

Portable North Pole has been going for a couple of years, offering parents a way to keep the magic alive for a little longer with their little – and not so little – children.

There are a couple of free video messages that can be personalised for your child, teenager or grown-up, but there are other items that can be paid for, including a phone call with Santa on Christmas Eve, an interactive train ride, or an update on your behaviour to take away the mystery of whether you have been good enough to make Santa’s nice list in 2020.



Produced in Ireland, the Santastic experience offers a seven-minute visit with Santa that you can drop in on whenever it suits you. Well, within reason; you have to do it before December 23rd, or face a few awkward questions from your children. While the Santastic visit isn’t as personalised as others, it does tailor the video depending on whether you select boy, girl or family visit. The whole thing is aimed at children aged between four and 10 years old, but we won’t judge you if you’re a few years (or decades) older than that.


Tesco Christmas Grotto

Retailer Tesco has created its very own augmented reality Santa’s Grotto that you can access for free through your smartphone. You’ll need a mobile browser, your sound up, and give the site permission to access the camera on your phone. If you go to the address on your desktop, you are prompted to scan the QR code with your smartphone to get access to a surprisingly realistic grotto.

There’s a crackling fire and Santa in the corner, ready to dish out a dose of holiday cheer, even if you don’t really feel like being merry and bright.

Visit Tesco’s Santa Grotto without leaving the house
Visit Tesco’s Santa Grotto without leaving the house

We won’t spoil it for you, but Santa has some big news for the children of Ireland, so drop in before Christmas Eve – when the grotto will understandably shut up for the year – to hear it first-hand.



Google Santa Tracker

Every December 1st, Google flips the switch and turns on its Santa Tracker site. But with 24 days between the site going live and Santa taking to the skies, what is a tech giant to do to fill in the time? Create a virtual Santa’s village, of course.

Google has created games that cover everything from jigsaws and puzzles to creating code. Once December 24th hits, the site turns over to the Santa tracker so children can follow the journey around the world.

Norad Santa Tracker

You can’t do Christmas Eve without Norad’s Santa Tracker. The site has everything from films on Santa and Norad to a library where you can read up on Santa and his magic elves. On Christmas Eve, the site will follow Santa’s progress around the world, letting you know just how far away he is from your home.



Irish Museum of Modern Art People’s Tree

The Christmas tree in the courtyard of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Imma) has a special theme this year: a new twist on the traditional rag tree. Imma is asking people to write or embroider their wishes on ribbons and rags to tie to a dedicated section on the Christmas tree. The museum has a tutorial on its website on how to create the ribbons, or you can submit your wishes online. Either way, it’s a nice gesture for an exceptionally strange festive season.


Irish Primary School Teacher

If you are a parent, 2020 has probably been the year of enforced crafting. So we wouldn’t blame you if you were all out of ideas, PVA glue or patience by now. Still, Christmas is traditionally the time that the kids get to raid the recycling bin in the name of fun, decorating the house with toilet roll snowmen, cardboard Santas with cotton wool beards, and snowflakes cut out of every bit of junk mail that makes its way into your letterbox. If you are all out of ideas, though, the Irish Primary Teacher website has compiled a list of Christmas art ideas, from Christmas baubles and origami trees to Christmas cards and elf art, with accompanying links to each project. Ideal for the Pinterest “nailed it” board.


It’s safe to say this will be a Christmas we never forget. Photograph: Getty
It’s safe to say this will be a Christmas we never forget. Photograph: Getty

Ugly Christmas jumpers

Did you miss out on the Christmas jumpers this year? It’s still not too late. With a few supplies and a bit of know-how, you can DIY an ugly Christmas jumper to be almost proud of. And if it doesn’t look exactly how you hoped, you can say it was meant to be that way.



Elf Yourself

Who hasn’t donned an elf suit at some point in their life? Thanks to the power of technology, you can make yourself into an elf without the risk that the neighbours will see and start to give you a wide berth. All you need is a few good photos and a sense of humour. The app is available for Android and iOS devices.


Scout Elf Ideas

We haven’t succumbed to the madness of Elf on the Shelf just yet, but there are plenty of people out there who have. And, depending on just how much you have bought into it, the Scout Elf app may help you out with some ideas to keep things fresh: a daytrip for the elf that involves trapping it in a jar, crafty elves that like to create their own snowmen, elf “angels” that involve marshmallows. If you’ve started Elf on the Shelf and bitterly regret it, there may be something to help you in here.


Christmas FM

It’s not Christmas until Christmas FM has started broadcasting every year. With wall-to-wall Christmas songs, from the old favourites to the blink-and-you-miss-them seasonal tunes, you can’t help but get into the Christmas spirit.


Irish Times Santa Podcast

A bit of shameless self promotion here: The IrishTimes is conducting an exclusive interview with Santa on December 21st, with Conor Pope stepping into the hotseat yet again to interview the man himself. Does Santa really eat those mince pies you leave him? Is milk actually the best drink to wash them down? How does he manage to get into all those homes without chimneys? The questions are endless. Will Conor Pope end up on the naughty list? It depends on how the interview goes.