For children who want to track Santa Claus and his reindeer as they make their way across the world to every rooftop on Christmas Eve, the North American Aerospace Defense Command has them covered with their NORAD Tracks Santa program.
Oddly enough, the 59-year-old tradition originally evolved out of a misprinted phone number on a local media advertisement in 1955. The number, which was advertised to lead to a conversation with Santa, instead left children to converse with Colonel Harry Shoup at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center—who did not disappoint.
“He could’ve been the guy who just told them they had the wrong number, but he took it upon himself to help a little girl by checking his radar and giving her an update,” said Air Force Master Sergeant Chuck Marsh. “The sense of fulfillment he got from helping out that little girl expanded. He answered a lot of calls that night.”
Now, having been established into a longstanding tradition among people of all ages, Marsh reports that the NORAD Tracks Santa program averages 117,371 phone calls during the 23 hours their operation center is open.
Additionally, the program draws in over 20 million unique website views, nearly 1.5 million “likes” on Facebook, approximately 41,000 “check-ins” on Google Plus, 146,000 followers on Twitter, and an estimated 9,600 emails from countries all over the world.
There are many options for trackers around the world to follow Santa on his gift-giving mission, one of which is the NORAD Tracks Santa website, noradsanta.org, which features a holiday countdown, games, and activities in eight languages.
Inquirers can also download the official NORAD Tracks Santa app, available through Windows, Apple, and Google Play stores. Other opportunities to track Santa are offered on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google Plus.
Windows Phone users can also ask Cortana for Santa’s location, and OnStar subscribers can press their car’s OnStar button to receive more information.
Starting today, children from around the world can watch as Santa prepares his reindeer and presents for his annual flight with NORAD’s “Santa Cams.” Trackers can also call in at 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out Santa’s exact location from a live phone operator.
“Kids look forward to this each year knowing that someone is watching out for Santa for them,” said Marsh.