With Christmas just hours away, it is too difficult a task for many children to patiently wait until Santa Claus arrives with present in white-gloved hand. To help pass the time as he and his reindeer make their way across the world to every rooftop on Christmas Eve, the North American Aerospace Defense Command has come to the rescue for over 60 years with their NORAD Tracks Santa program.
“Twenty-four hours a day, everyday NORAD is tracking anything that flies in or around North America,” said NORAD spokesman Preston Schlachter. “On Dec. 24, we have the special mission of tracking Santa.”
The NORAD Tracks Santa website, which launched on Dec. 1 this year, features Santa’s North Pole Village, which includes a holiday countdown, games activities and more. The website, which can be accessed at noradsanta.org, is available in eight languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese.
The 61-year-old NORAD tradition started oddly enough by accident with a misprinted phone number on a local media advertisement in 1955. The phone number, which promised children that it would lead to a conversation with Santa, instead directed them to Colonel Harry Shoup at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center—who did not disappoint.
“Rather than telling the kids they had the wrong number, he assured them that he would track Santa and guarantee him a safe trip back home to the North Pole and a tradition was born,” said Schlachter.
Now, having been established into a longstanding tradition among people of all ages, Schlachter said that the NORAD Tracks Santa program brought in nearly 141,000 phone calls last year during the 23 hours their operation center was open.
Additionally, the program last year drew in 20 million unique website views, 1.6 million “likes” on Facebook, 165,000 followers on Twitter, and an estimated 2,800 emails from countries all over the world. New this year, the NORAD Tracks Santa program created its own Instagram account, which has already brought in nearly 4,000 followers.
“It’s growing every day,” said Schlachter. “We promote the tracker and try to keep people updated on what’s going on at the operation center.”
Official NORAD Tracks Santa apps are available in the Windows, Apple and Google Play stores, and tracking opportunities are offered on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Google +.
Starting as early as 3 a.m. today, children from around the world can call 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. Windows Phone users can also ask Cortana for Santa’s location, and OnStar subscribers can press the OnStar button in their vehicles to locate Santa.
Additionally, to make sure that Santa Claus doesn’t hit any bumps in the road — or better yet, in the sky — during his yuletide journey this year, California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones granted a 24-hour permit clearing all brand inspection and health requirements for his nine reindeer Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen and Rudolph on their visit to California this evening and in the early morning hours of Christmas tomorrow.
“We consider it an honor to issue this permit to Mr. Kringle and do our part to ensure another successful trip,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “We wish him safe travels and plenty of milk and cookies as he and his reindeer make deliveries to the good children of California.”