Many people don’t know this, but NORAD actually has a dual purpose.
“The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is a United States and Canada binational organization charged with the mission of aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning in the defense of North America,” reads the first explanation on the international agency’s website.
But there’s more:
“We also track Santa Claus every Dec. 24 through our NORAD Tracks Santa program,” the site continues.
The tradition started in 1955, and NORAD now uses its satellites, high-powered radar, jet fighters and “special Santa cameras” to track Santa Claus as he makes his journey around the world.
“Our constellation of defense satellites use infrared radar to keep pinpoint accuracy on the heat signature on Rudolf’s nose,” explains a video on the NORAD site. “Ground base radar sites relay updates.”
As the legend goes, it all began with an innocuous misprint.
A Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. ad 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, Colonel 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.
Canada and the United States officially created the air defense agency known as NORAD in 1958, and it’s been a tradition to track Santa ever since. The site is now used by millions of people across the globe each year to track Santa.
“In addition to our day-to-day mission of defending North America, we are proud to carry on the tradition of tracking Santa as he travels along his yuletide flight,” said Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander NORAD and U.S. Northern Command. “The same radars, satellites and interceptors employed on December 24 are used year-round to protect Canada and the United States.”
The 63rd iteration of NORAD Tracks Santa started Dec. 1, with a revamped website, social media channels, “Santa Cam” streaming video and a call center that will be operating around the clock on Dec. 24. More than 1,400 volunteers are expected to join NORAD on Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs to help track Santa’s journey.
Featuring Santa’s North Pole Village, the NORAD website, NORADsanta.org, includes a holiday countdown, games, activities, information regarding NORAD’s mission of Homeland Defense, and more.
New digital tracking
Starting at 11 p.m. on Dec. 23, website visitors can watch Santa make his last-minute flight preparations. The “Santa Cams” will then stream videos on the website as St. Nick makes his annual trip around the world.
Starting at 3 a.m. on Dec. 24, Santa enthusiasts, and those just curious on his whereabouts, can speak with a live operator to inquire as to a more precise location for Santa. The toll-free number to call is 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to [email protected].
Additionally, now Alexa is in the mix, and any time on Dec. 24, Amazon Alexa users can ask for Santa’s location through the NORAD Tracks Santa skill for Amazon Alexa, and OnStar subscribers can press the OnStar button in their vehicles to locate Santa. Bing and Cortana users can also find Santa’s location on Dec. 24.