Where is Santa? NORAD Santa Tracker, Santa Path, and History

As Christmas day is approaching in less than 24 hours, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will launch its annual online Santa Tracker program. Millions can tune in around the world to follow Santa’s whereabouts as he embarks on his worldwide journey this Christmas Eve.

The history of the NORAD Santa Tracker program has interesting origins. On Christmas Eve in 1955, children across the country phoned into a “Santa hotline” that was launched by a Sears newspaper ad. The phone number was intended to be directed to a Santa’s workshop hotline conducted by Sears employees. However the ad misprinted the number by one incorrect digit, and the calls were transferred to a top-secret line at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center (CONAD). 

The phone that rang at CONAD was designated as an emergency hotline for any U.S. airborne threats. When U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup answered the call, he was expecting a national emergency message from the Pentagon.

To his surprise, a young voice asked him if he was really Santa Clause. Shoup played along and organized his team members to address more young callers throughout the night. U.S military members informed young callers of Santa’s location according to their radar. A typo in a newspaper ad quickly became an annual tradition of spreading the holiday spirit. CONAD launched a separate hotline for children to phone in Santa’s location, and NORAD upheld the tradition when they replaced the organization in 1958.

The NORAD tracker system has now entered an online platform. This year, countless military volunteers will gather at NORAD’s headquarters in Colorado. Col. John Bartholf, a European Aeronautics Defense and Space company (EADS) commander discusses the mission of the program.

“NORAD has supported Santa Claus' Christmas Eve operations for more than 50 years and we are always delighted to participate," said Col. John Bartholf, EADS commander. "I can assure everyone that EADS will do everything in its power to assist Santa with his critical mission" he said.

On the official Santa tracker website, viewers can trace Santa’s flight path according to NORAD “radar.” Viewers can also see how many gifts he has delivered so far. The NORAD Santa Tracker program has upheld the tradition of spreading Christmas cheer to young children. No matter what ones sentiments are on Santa, hopefully many can agree that is one government program that is helping make Christmas special for children everywhere.

Watch Santa live here.


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Shawna Gillen

Shawna is currently studying Political Science and Psychology at Marist College. She has a passion for politics and is an aspiring lawyer. In her spare time she likes to play club women's rugby, and contributes as the Co-News Editor for Marist's student newspaper.

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