NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), has tracked Santa’s flight on Christmas Eve for 62 years; all thanks to a happy accident! The tradition began in 1955 after a 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.” Colonel Harry Shoup, Director of Operations, 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.
In 1958, the governments of Canada and the United States created a bi-national air defense command for North America called the North American Aerospace Defense Command, also known as NORAD. And yes, they took over the tradition of tracking Santa. Today, NORAD, relying on volunteers, handles more than 12,000 e-mails and 70,000 telephone calls (about 40 an hour) from more than two hundred countries and territories. Most of these contacts happen during the twenty-five hours from 2:00 AM. on December 24 until 3:00 AM on December 25. Google Analytics have been used since December 2007 to analyze traffic at the NORAD Tracks Santa website to project volunteer staffing, telephone and computer equipment needs for Christmas Eve. Track Santa at www.noradsanta.org, or search your respective app stores for NORAD Santa.