What’s interesting on the Web this week? Christmas sites, naturally.
Also, watching the San Diego Zoo’s baby panda and getting rewarded every
time you shop online.

On The First Day Of Christmas … The Web abounds in so many
holiday-related sites that it would take 365 days to visit them all, not
just the first 25 days of December. For each of the three Mondays before
Christmas, I’ll try to give a sampling of representational sites. If
you’re really into Christmas and want more, just about all have links to
others. And if you have favorite Christmas sites you’d like to recommend
to others, e-mail me.

Holiday Customs. One that was new to me is How Stuff Works’ Christmas site,
which might be called all-inclusive. It asks you to imagine explaining
the holiday’s customs to someone from Mars. Why do we decorate evergreen
trees, hang stockings and mistletoe, sing carols, bake fruitcakes and
buy poinsettias? What’s with this rotund guy in the fur-trimmed red
suit? Why do even people in the warmer parts of the U.S. dream of a
white Christmas? How Stuff Works tackles all those questions, including
whether Jesus was born on Dec. 25, and often includes links that help
you learn more.

Countdown. Remember when you were a kid and simply couldn’t
wait until Christmas Eve? Here’s a site that counts
the days, hours, minutes and seconds until Christmas. Checking
this site each evening might become a new holiday ritual in

Froehliche Weihnachten. Discover how to write Merry Christmas
and Happy New Year in 135
. (You can also view the flags and listen to the national
anthems of many of the countries represented by these languages.)

Dear Santa. If your Christmas customs include Santa, kids can
write him a letter and get an e-mail reply at Merry-Christmas.com. The site
also includes holiday-related activities that little ones can do offline
as well as on, MIDI files of Christmas tunes and some delicious-sounding

O Tannenbaum. On a practical note, the National Christmas Tree
presents lots of tips for choosing your live or cut
tree, why this is an environmental choice and how to keep your tree from
shedding its needles all over the carpet. It also lets you find
Christmas tree farms around the nation and has activities for kids.

The Tree In D.C. See your tax dollars at work with the Capitol Christmas
in Washington. The site boasts a tree cam and a photo album of
trees (and Senate Christmases) of the past. But, please, Sen. Daschle,
get rid of the “Xmas.”

‘Tis The Season To Shop. This column tends to mention mostly
noncommercial sites, but it’s impossible to pick up a newspaper or
magazine or tune in to a TV business news broadcast that you don’t hear
about how many people are going to be doing their holiday shopping on
the Web this year.

With that in mind, you might want to investigate some of the sites
that let you earn rewards for every dollar you spend at merchants with
which they’re affiliated. Usually you get points that are redeemed for
items that you choose, although at least one site is promising cash

What you need to check out before you join are whether the companies
are those you would normally be shopping with anyway and whether you
plan to spend enough over the next six months or a year to make it
worthwhile. You can sign up for shopping rewards at Click Rewards, Lycoshop, My Points and AdVortex.

Poetry In Motion Remember haikus from your high school English
classes? The Genuine Haiku
will pop up a floating haiku, a favorite haiku, let you
send someone one of these stylistic Japanese-style poems to someone and
visit other haiku sites. They never explain, though, about the “genuine”
part of their name. What’s a non-genuine haiku generator?

Aw, That’s Cute. That was the reaction of everyone in my
office last week to the San Diego Zoo’s Panda
. It’s a camera trained on the famous zoo’s baby panda born in
August. You get to see her interacting with her mom, moving around and
just generally being cute. Little kids will love this.

Going To The Cyberzoo. If you’re interested in animals, Zoo Web will link you to the North
American and international zoos and aquariums with a presence on the
Web. It also has games for kids, connections to live zoo cameras,
screensavers and educational links.

Switcheroo Zoo is a game
where youngsters can come up with “new” animals by matching more than
6,500 combinations.

Missing In Action. Keep up with the latest on NASA’s
out-of-contact Mars Polar

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