By Jamie Rogers
The holiday spirit is already in the air, but when will Santa Claus be aloft to your house? The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has all the answers every Christmas with its NORAD Tracks Santa project. This year marks the 61st time the command will be tracking the jolly old elf as he leaves his home at the North Pole and delivers presents to good children around the world.
The official NORAD Tracks Santa website, www.noradsanta.org, features games, videos, music and more — all perfect for families to explore together as the days grow closer to Christmas Eve.
On Dec. 24, Santa traditionally starts his mission to deliver gifts at the International Dateline, traveling west to visit the South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia, then continuing his journey around the globe throughout the night. NORAD’s jet pilots — flying F-16s, F-15s and CF-18s — often wave to Santa midair during his Christmas Eve travels, and their videos are posted regularly on the official website as his journey is updated. Even though NORAD tracks all airplanes, missiles, space launches and anything else that flies through the skies, only Santa knows for sure what exact route he will take each year. In general, Santa arrives in each time zone between 9 p.m. and midnight on Christmas Eve, but if children are awake in those homes, he moves on to other houses and returns later — only when the children are asleep.
But until bedtime, Santa fans can call 877-HI-NORAD or email firstname.lastname@example.org on Christmas Eve, where thousands of volunteers will check the big guy’s journey on a big-screen computer monitor and pass along Santa’s location. Updates are also posted on NORAD Santa’s Facebook page and on Twitter @NoradSanta. The volunteers will keep answering questions through the early hours of Christmas Day.
The tradition of tracking Santa happened purely by accident many years ago. Legend says that a Sears department store advertisement in 1955 told children to call a phone number to speak to Santa on Christmas Eve. Whether the number printed was wrong or a child dialed the wrong number, the first Santa call went through to Colorado Springs’ Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center that night. The next year, CONAD began tracking Santa in earnest, and in 1958, NORAD officially took over the task. Today, thousands of volunteers at NORAD answer more than 100,000 calls from children on Christmas Eve.
(Colorado Springs, CO – In years past, Santa Claus has visited the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command Current Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to review his flight plan for his Dec. 24 trek around the globe.)
In addition to watching NORAD’s official website for updates, the young and young at heart can find more information on the project’s official YouTube Channel, its Google + page and its Instagram account. You can also track Santa on the fly with free mobile apps in the Google Play store and on iTunes.