NORAD tracking Santa Claus

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 24, 2013

All the preparations for Santa’s special journey are in place, said the group tasked with tracking Santa’s Christmas delivery trek.

For more than 50 years, NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) has tracked Santa’s flight.

The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement misprinted the telephone number for children to call Santa. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief’s operations “hotline.”

The director of operations at the time, Col. Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born.

This year, some 1,250 volunteers will work to field children’s questions at the North American Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. NORAD has conducted the Santa tracking program for 58 years, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Bill Lewis, a NORAD spokesman. Last year, the call center fielded about 114,000 calls and nearly 11,000 emails from children, NORAD figures show. The website had 22.3 million visitors from 235 countries and territories across the globe during December, while the program’s Facebook page grew to more than 1.2 million followers.

Altogether, 25 million people around the world followed Santa’s journey in real-time on the web, on their mobile devices, by e-mail and by phone last year.

“The program has its own life,” Lewis said of the “NORAD Tracks Santa” mass appeal that’s often handed down in families from generation to generation. The program’s website offers games and other activities for children until Dec. 24 when the tracking Santa tracking map goes live, he said.

When the website goes live, other tracking methods via satellite, ground-based radar and “fighter jets” also spring to life, Lewis said. Sirius radio will also give a live-feed rundown of Santa’s journey, he added.

There are a number of ways you can track Santa with NORAD.

To track Santa online, return to their webpage,, on Dec. 24; download the official NORAD Tracks Santa apps or call 1-877-HI-NORAD. There, live operators will be manning the phones Tuesday to give updates on St. Nick’s location.