As it has for the past 60 years, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will track Santa’s yuletide journey at www.noradsanta.org. The control room is now at Peterson Air Force Base, also in Colorado Springs.
The children instead reached another hotline instead: the operations hotline of Col. Harry Shoup, the crew commander on duty at what was then known as the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, an organization that helped guard North America against potential air attack.
The part about a kid dialing into CONAD asking about Santa was true, but it was in late November, not Christmas Eve. There’s a phone number to call Santa.
NORAD has been keeping tabs on Santa Claus for 60 years. There are also volunteers who speak different languages, including Spanish and French.
The Santa program began in 1955, when a Sears department store placed an advertisement in a newspaper which told children that they could telephone Santa Claus and included a number for them to call, however the phone number printed was incorrect.
Lt. Joe Nawrocki is fielding calls for the first time this year.
When will Santa get to my house? What time will he arrive? It used to operate out of an underground bunker in nearby Cheyenne Mountain, but moved onto the base, which offers more flexibility. What do reindeer eat?
NORAD annually stages the tracking effort on behalf of kids across the Earth, taking calls from children who want to know if they’re on the Naughty or Nice list, whether Santa got their last-minute present requests, and even if he can find them if they’re not sleeping at home tonight.
“Technology is always changing”, Nawrocki said.
As for tracking Santa himself, Norad describes sending out Canadian fighter jets to meet the jolly elf and his well-loaded sleigh when he enters Canadian airspace.
The more cynical version of the story is that the USA military saw an opportunity to score some PR points with the public at the height of the Cold War, and took inspiration from that kid’s call for a marketing stunt.
The website works just fine on smartphones and tablets, too, but there’s also an Android app with bonus Christmas games, if you need some extra holiday cheer.