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New Google doodle rings in the holidays

An interactive doodle gracing Google's home page celebrates the Christmas season with images including Santa Claus, St. Basil's Cathedral, and the Buche de Noel dessert.


Google has unveiled a new doodle on its home page today to serve up some interactive Christmas cheer.

Topping the company's home page for the next two-and-a-half days, the new doodle is more ambitious and challenging than past holiday doodles. Most of the Christmas doodles that have graced the site's home page over the past 12 years have been relatively simpler designs that tweaked the familiar Google logo. But the new doodle displays a collection of festive scenes created to suggest that logo in a rather abstract fashion.

At first glance, you may not see the Google logo in the new doodle. But closer inspection reveals how each individual scene joins together to paint an overall approximation of the logo. And though the logo may look like just a set of pictures, it's also interactive. Hovering over each scene increases its size so that you can appreciate more of the original design. And clicking on a scene opens a Google search page designed to reveal its origins.

The scene farthest left in the doodle, for instance, displays a drawing of St. Basil's Cathedral in Russia and points you to a page of search results on the famous cathedral. Another paints a picture of Buche de Noel, a Christmas dessert served in different countries, and serves up a page with recipes on the dish. A third scene shows Santa Claus and his reindeer atop a roof and brings you to a page where you can learn about "Up on the Housetop," a Christmas song created in 1860.

Google has become renowned for its regular output of doodles, not just for holidays but also for news events, birthdays, and other special occasions. Past doodles have celebrated the Fourth of July, the Olympics, and even Einstein's birthday. Each doodle typically plays around with the classic Google logo, transforming it into something that can visually commemorate a special date in time.

Though Google's doodles may seem like a fun and frivolous pastime, creating one is actually real work for the doodling artists, as CNET's Daniel Terdiman discovered earlier this year. Knowing that their design will be seen by hundreds of millions of users, the artists have to make sure the doodle is fun, creative, accurate, and appealing to a large number of people. Doodles honoring holidays and religious celebrations can be especially tricky since the company wants them to be as inclusive as possible.

Because of the complexity of the new Christmas doodle, creating it took five artists about 250 hours, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal. Google's doodle team is led by chief doodler Micheal Lopez and includes Susie Sahim, Jennifer Hom, Ryan Germick, and Mike Dutton. To create the new holiday design, the doodlers spent six months working on the concept of the 17 interactive holiday scenes.

The team had to decide which images would be used for the doodle, eventually choosing to celebrate the themes of food, dance, architecture, and textiles. The work was divided among the five team members who would meet regularly to discuss their progress. Initially the team had designed the doodle to reveal itself slowly over three days, ending on Christmas, according to the Journal story, but Google executives who checked out the design last week suddenly wanted the doodle to unveil itself in one single day--hence today's multipart mural.

As the doodles have advanced over the years, they've become more than just static images. This past Thanksgiving, for instance, saw a series of three doodles that linked to recipes from "Barefoot Contessa" TV host and author Ina Garten. October 9th honored the birthday of John Lennon by offering a doodle that let you click on it to launch a small animated film with a clip of "Imagine" playing in the background.

And in early September, Google used a very lively animated doodle to tease the arrival of its Google Instant search technology.

The notion of a doodle on the home page came about in 1998 when Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin wanted a simple doodle to spoof the idea of the "out of office" message, leading to a Burning Man image behind the Google logo. After that, the doodle starting taking off in 1999 with several launched to honor various holidays. Since then, the doodle has become a tradition--a way for Google to visually commemorate days that have special meaning to its users and of course attract more people to its site.