Last night, you may have pulled up the official Santa Tracker for your children to follow Santa Claus’s path around the world on Christmas Eve. The tracker has been following Santa every Christmas Eve for over 60 years, and its origin is a bit surprising.
‘Twas the night before Christmas…
It all started on December 24, 1955. A Colorado Springs newspaper featured a Sears Christmas advertisement stating children could call ME 2-6681 to speak with Santa himself.
A child did, in fact, call the number and when Colonel Harry Shoup answered, he did not expect to hear a child ask if he was speaking with Santa Claus.
You see, the number the child called was a secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD).
The number in the newspaper was misprinted by one digit. Shoup was not amused—the hotline was for military warnings, as the country was in the Cold War at that time.
However, he changed his tone and pretended to be Santa when the child became upset.
As the night went on, more children called the number to speak with Santa and Shoup had airmen answering the phones as Santa Claus.
Shoup’s staff member then placed a Santa picture on a tracker in the command center that tracked unidentified aircraft. The idea to “track” Santa came about, and they began to let children know Santa’s rough location when calling in. Years later, parents around the world wrote to Colonel Harry Shoup and thanked him for having a sense of humor and playing the part; he became known as the “Santa Colonel.”
Today’s Technology Focused Santa Tracker
The tradition of tracking Santa was established in 1955 by CONAD and the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) took over in 1958. Santa’s Christmas journey became more detailed as other NORAD posts reported his whereabouts from other locations.
NORAD was renamed to the North American Aerospace Defense Command in 1981 and a public hotline was set up to call and get updates on Santa’s location.
Today, volunteers run NORAD’s program. The team takes on approximately 40 calls an hour, 12,000 e-mails, and 70,000 telephone calls from over two hundred territories and countries.
The tracker has also undergone several technological integrations into mobile app platforms for both Apple and Android users. You can also connect with NORAD’s Santa tracker on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram.