For over six decades, the joint US-Canadian military monitoring agency, NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), has been delighting children around the world with its Christmas tradition of tracking Santa’s whereabouts. Born out of a fortuitous mistake in 1955, the Santa tracker has evolved into a 3-D, interactive website that allows users to join Santa Claus on his imaginary delivery route. This beloved tradition continues to captivate and bring joy to children, making Christmas even more magical.
The inception of the Santa tracker can be traced back to a misprinted advertisement in a Colorado newspaper. Intended to provide a direct line to Santa Claus, the advertisement instead led children to a hotline for the military nerve center. Col. Harry Shoup, NORAD’s director of operations at the time, couldn’t bear to disappoint the eager children calling in, so he tasked his staff with checking the radar to locate Santa’s whereabouts. Little did they know that this small act of kindness would spark an enduring holiday tradition.
Today, children can visit the NORAD Santa Tracker website (www.noradsanta.org) to embark on a virtual adventure with Santa and his reindeer. The website offers a fully immersive experience, presenting Santa’s journey in 3-D and allowing users to click on various cities along the way to learn more about them. This interactive platform brings the magic of Christmas to life, enhancing children’s excitement and anticipation for Santa’s arrival.
To engage more directly with children, NORAD sets up a temporary call center at its headquarters in Colorado. Here, volunteers work tirelessly to answer children’s burning questions about Santa’s progress. Rows of dedicated individuals, some even wearing Santa caps, can be seen in a heartwarming photo shared by NORAD on Facebook. Even top-level US dignitaries, such as President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, joined in on the holiday action, participating in the North American Aerospace Defense Command Santa tracking calls with children across the country.
While the Santa tracker usually operates flawlessly, even the most magical endeavors can encounter technical difficulties. Earlier in the day, the tracker experienced a brief outage, causing some children in the Pacific region to be left in the dark about Santa’s exact location. However, NORAD quickly reassured everyone through social media, ensuring that Santa was still flying and provided prompt updates on his expected destinations.
Santa’s extraordinary journey commenced with a visit to the International Space Station, a truly out-of-this-world stop. From there, he traversed various regions, including Israel, southern Gaza, Africa, and even the research facility in Antarctica called Palmer Station. As of 0130 GMT Monday, Santa was heading towards the United States and had already delivered an astounding 4.9 billion presents, at a rate of approximately 100,000 gifts per second.
While NORAD dedicates itself to spreading holiday cheer through the Santa tracker, it is important to recognize its primary role in aerospace and maritime control and warning operations. NORAD closely monitors for missile launches from North Korea, exemplifying the organization’s commitment to global security. As Santa makes his magical journey, it’s impossible to ignore the potential geopolitical implications, given the recent ICBM test conducted by North Korea.
From a simple mistake in a newspaper advertisement to a global phenomenon, the NORAD Santa tracker has become an essential part of the Christmas season. This interactive and immersive experience allows children to join Santa on his worldwide adventure, fostering excitement and wonder during this magical time of year. Thanks to the dedication of NORAD and its volunteers, the tradition of tracking Santa’s whereabouts continues to spread joy and create cherished memories for children and their families worldwide.