Tracking Santa: Why NORAD keeps tabs of the holiday icon

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — What started back in 1955 as an accidental call by a child looking for Santa Claus, is now one of the most highly-anticipated holiday traditions for families all over the world; the NORAD Santa Tracker.

The History of the Santa Tracker

Legend has it 60 years ago, a call came into the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center in Colorado Springs, CO. An Air Force colonel on duty that night answered the call. Only to realize the person on the other end of the line was somebody who probably shouldn’t have had the unlisted government number.

A young child had dialed the number thinking she was calling Santa after seeing a promotion for Sears in the local newspaper. The colonel, quickly realized the mistake but assured her that the Command Center would “make sure Santa had a safe journey from the north pole.”

Thus, a tradition was born.

Three years later, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, NORAD, took on a special mission to track Santa Claus every Christmas Eve. While the rest of the year, NORAD tracks anything and everything flies in and around North America.

The Department of Defense’s “NORAD Santa Tracker” website follows Santa’s sleigh the night of Christmas Eve, updating his location and the number of delivered gifts each minute. This is made possible by numerous volunteers and generous donations.

The website sees nearly 15 million unique visitors from over 200 countries and territories each year. Meanwhile, the Santa Tracker hotline can see a hundred and fifty thousand calls annually.

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