WASHINGTON: A joint US-Canadian military monitoring agency continued this year its decades-long Christmas practice of tracking Santa’s whereabouts, helping children around the globe find out when his reindeer-powered, present-filled sleigh would be coming to town.
A 3-D, interactive website at www.noradsanta.org showed Santa Claus and his reindeer on their imagined worldwide delivery route, allowing users to click and learn more about the different cities along the way.
The Santa tracker offered by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) dates to 1955, when a Colorado newspaper advertisement printed a phone number to connect children with Santa but mistakenly directed them to the hotline for the military nerve centre.
To avoid disappointing the little ones, NORAD’s director of operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, ordered his staff to check the radar to see where Old Saint Nick might be and update the children on his position.
When not spreading holiday cheer, NORAD conducts aerospace and maritime control and warning operations — including monitoring for missile launches from North Korea, something that may have been on Santa’s mind this year as he passed over, with the most recent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test just days ago.
Sixty-eight years later, NORAD was continuing its practice of setting up a temporary call center out of its Colorado headquarters to answer children’s burning questions.
A photo shared by the group on Facebook showed rows of people answering phones, some in uniform and others wearing red Santa caps.
Some top-level US dignitaries – namely President Joe Biden and wife Jill Biden – joined in on the holiday fun.
“This evening, the President and First Lady participated in the North American Aerospace Defense Command Santa tracking calls with children and families across the country,” the White House said in a statement.
Earlier on Sunday (Dec 24), the tracker went down for a short while, leaving children in the Pacific region in the dark about his exact situation.
“Hey #SantaTrackers! We may be having a couple of technical problems with our tracking map, but #Santa is still flying! He is going to Fiji next!” the group which runs the tracker said on its Facebook page, before announcing a fix one hour later.
Father Christmas had started his journey with an out-of-this-world first stop, according to NORAD: the International Space Station orbiting Earth.
The reindeer-pulled sleigh was also seen traversing Israel as well as flying over southern Gaza, criss-crossing Africa, and venturing southward to Palmer Station, a research centre in Antarctica.
Santa then headed up through South America, heading for the United States as he unloaded approximately 100,000 gifts every second.
Around 10 pm local time, Kris Kringle and his reindeer were spotted entering US airspace near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, before continuing their trip across the rest of the country – with nearly 5.5 billion presents, and counting, delivered worldwide.