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NORAD Santa Tracker Celebrates 65th Anniversary

Taylor E. Watson

NORAD celebrates its 65th year of tracking Santa this December 24th. The tradition began in 1955 when a child dialed a misprinted number from a newspaper ad encouraging kids to call Santa. The phone was picked up by Colonel Henry Shoup, Director of Operations of the CONAD Operations Center.

Rather than disappoint the child, Col. Shoup instructed his staff to check the radar for signs of Santa’s progress. The tradition has carried on ever since. Each year, NORAD and its predecessor CONAD have reported Santa’s location to millions using the same radar, satellite systems, and aircraft they use to track activity in the skies in defense of America’s homeland.

Historically, hundreds of volunteer Santa-trackers have come together in a conference room at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. They take every call that comes in from children eager to know when Santa will be near their rooftops. Working in two-hour shifts beginning at 6 a.m. Eastern on Christmas Eve, volunteers field hundreds of thousands of calls reporting on Santa’s journey over twenty hours. The mission has been faithfully executed every year regardless of obstacles, including the 2018 government shut down.

In spite of this year’s pandemic, NORAD will dutifully track Santa’s location as he progresses on his toy delivery mission and will still receive calls from eager Santa fans. In order to keep everyone safe, there will be fewer volunteers this year and CDC guidelines such as safe distancing, temperature checks, and health questions will be followed on site. Some calls may go to Santa’s voicemail , but Santa’s journey can be tracked via mobile app, website, and social media platforms.

As of December 1st NORAD has launched their official Santa tracker on their website featuring informational resources, interactive games, and statistics at noradsanta.org . For those who want to attempt the old-fashioned phone call, 877-Hi NORAD is the number to dial on Christmas Eve. The NORAD Tracks Santa Claus app is available now at the App Store.

A bright spot in what has been a difficult year for many, the commitment to this time-honored tradition is a reminder of how much impact a spirit of positivity, sense of humor, and spirit of service to a mission bigger than ourselves can make. I know I’ll be checking in on Santa this year, and I hope you will too.