For more than six decades, a binational military organization has tracked the whereabouts of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.
This year, the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) is celebrating its 63rd anniversary of tracking the Jolly Old Elf on his yuletide journey.
“NORAD Tracks Santa” is truly “a global experience, delighting generations of families everywhere.”
Created by a 1958 agreement between Canada and the United States, NORAD is responsible for the aerospace and maritime defense of both countries.
NORAD provides advanced warning of impending missile and air attack against its two member nations, safeguards the air sovereignty of North America and provides airborne defense forces for defense against an air attack.
As a result of the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy, NORAD monitors the airspace within both Canada and the United States. It works closely with the Federal Aviation Administration and NAV Canada, which is Canada’s equivalent to America’s FAA. In addition, the command also conducts maritime warning.
The men and women of NORAD are constantly watching the skies and waterways of the United States and Canada to keep North America safe.
The tradition of tracking Santa Claus was born after a Sears and Roebuck Company, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., ran an advertisement telling children they could call Santa on a special hotline.
The phone number was misprinted, so, instead of Santa, children reached the operations hotline of the commander-in-chief of the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), the predecessor of NORAD.
After Col. Harry Shoup, director of operations, received the first Santa call on Christmas Eve in 1955, he directed his staff to check radar data to see if there was any indication of Santa’s leaving the North Pole on Christmas Eve.
Children who called were then given updates on Santa’s position.
Known as the “Santa Colonel,” Shoup passed away March 14, 2009.
NORAD had inherited the tradition from CONAD in 1958. Since then, its Canadian and American workers have responded personally to phone calls from children.
Today, NORAD tracks Santa’s yuletide journey via its website, www.noradsanta.org.
The information is given in eight languages — English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, German and Chinese.
The website, which “went live” the first of December, features “Santa’s North Pole Village,” including a holiday countdown, games, activities and more.
Official “NORAD Tracks Santa” apps are available in the Apple and Google Play stores, so that parents and children can count down the days until Santa’s launch on their smartphones and tablets.
Santa’s followers will also be able to track him on social media through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Mountain Standard Time (MST) on Christmas Eve (Sunday, Dec. 24), children of all ages can watch Santa make preparations for his flight.
Then, beginning at 4 a.m. MST on Christmas Eve, Santa trackers can speak with a live phone operator to ask about Santa’s whereabouts by dialing the toll free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anytime on Dec. 24, Amazon Alexa users can ask for Santa’s location through NORAD Tracks Santa, while OnStar subscribers can press the OnStar button in their vehicles to find Santa.
NORAD’s “Santa Cams” will also stream videos as Santa makes his way over various locations.
Just don’t forget that no matter where Santa is in the world, he will never come to your house until you’re fast asleep.