The North American Aerospace Defense Command-or NORAD-which monitors air and space threats against the U.S. and Canada is in charge of the annual Christmas mission to keep children informed of Santa’s worldwide journey to their homes.
According to NORAD, Santa began his latest flight early Wednesday at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean. Historically, Santa visits the South Pacific first, then New Zealand and Australia. NORAD points out that only Santa knows what route he is going to take. Find Santa here.
Last year, NORAD’s Santa tracking center answered 94,000 calls and responded to 10,000 emails. About 10.6 million visitors went to their website, which can be viewed in English, Spanish, Italian, French, German, Japanese and Chinese.
NORAD’s holiday tradition can be traced to 1955, when a Colorado Springs, CO newspaper printed a Sears, Roebuck & Co., ad telling children of a phone number to talk to Santa. The number was one digit off, and the first child to get through reached the Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD’s precedessor.
Col. Harry W. Shoup answered.
Shoup’s daughter, Terri van Keuren, said her dad, now 91, was surprised to hear that little voice on the other end thought he was Santa.
“Dad thought, ‘What the heck? This must be some kind of code,” said van Keuren, 59.
Shoup, described by his daughter as “just a nut about Christmas,” didn’t want to break the boy’s heart, so he sounded a booming “Ho, Ho, Ho!” and pretended to be Santa Claus.
Enough calls followed that Stroup assigned an officer to answer them while the problem was fixed. But Stoup and the staff he was directing to “locate” Santa on radar ended up embracing the idea. NORAD picked up the tradition when it was formed 50 years ago.
The task that began with no computers and only a 60-by-80 foot glass map of North America now includes two big screens on a wall showing the world and information on each country Santa Claus visits.
Everyone, adults included, can now follow Santa’s path online with a Google two-dimensional map or in 3D using Google Earth, where he can been seen flying through different landscapes in his sleigh.
NORAD offficials are hesitant to list all the potential sites Santa will visit with certainty.
“Historically, Santa has loved the Great Wall of China. He loves the Space Needle in Seattle. He of course loves the Eiffel Tower,” Maj. Stacia Reddish of NORAD said. “But his path is completely unpredictable, so we won’t know.”
Merry Christmas to all! Joyeux Noel!