If you’re alone this Christmas Eve and you have a bit of an obsessive streak, then it’s time to plant yourself behind your computer with a gallon of eggnog and study the NORAD Santa Tracker. Wondering where Santa is right now? He’s hovering around the Philippines and steadily moving westward. NORAD, the very real North American Aerospace Defense Command, says that they use four systems to track the location of St. Nick — radar, satellites, Santa cams and fighter jets. But how the hell did a real life bi-national aerospace defense organization become responsible for tracking the world’s most notorious home invader?
According to NORAD, it’s a tale straight out of a cheap ABC Family Christmas movie:
The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief’s operations “hotline.” The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born.
A team of 1,200, including NORAD employees and their families, still staff the phone lines all day and take over 80,000 every year.
But just in case your kid is afraid of using the phone, NORAD has just launched a Santa tracking app for the iPhone, as well as one for Android phones — NORAD, and Santa for that matter, doesn’t discriminate between platforms.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 24, 2011