US-Canada miltary help children track Santa Claus’ journey

This photo shows a woman monitoring the progress of Santa Claus in Washington, DC, US on December 24, 2012. — AFP
This photo shows a woman monitoring the progress of Santa Claus in Washington, DC, US on December 24, 2012. — AFP

It is the time of the year when the sound of sleigh bells echoes across the night sky as Santa Claus embarks on his journey across the globe to spread joy with gifts.

Every year since 1955, as children everywhere in the world await the arrival of Santa, the United States’ Department of Defense (DoD) makes sure to bring them along on his journey and they have continued the tradition this year as well.

Once again, for the 68th year, DoD ensured Santa’s safe journey as he delivered all of his presents to children worldwide.

The North America Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command, which ensures airspace protection and defence, use their unique skills to track Santa on Christmas Eve, an annual tradition that began by accident 68 years ago.

NORAD provides notifications on Santa’s movements every year around 4am EST on Christmas Eve.

The agency uses its website and app to provide unclassified details of Santa’s whereabouts.

Children worldwide can call 1-877-HI-NORAD to ask, “Where’s Santa?” One of 1,000 NORAD volunteers will provide the information without disclosing national security secrets.

According to NORAD, the agency typically gets about 130,000 calls to the NORAD Tracks Santa hotline.

NORAD Tracks Santa program manager 1st Lieutenant Sean Carter said: “Over the years, this particular program has experienced several different iterations, sometimes leaning more into the festivities of the holiday season, other times celebrating the whimsy.

“Ultimately, tracking Santa is a military operation, and having Hangar 123 as the new home to the call centre couldn’t be more appropriate.”

How did NORAD begin tracking Santa?

It may seem unlikely, but mistakes can occasionally have positive outcomes.

In 1955, a child attempting to contact Santa accidentally contacted the unlisted number of the Continental Air Defence Command’s Operations Centre located in Colorado.

The phone number in a newspaper advertisement encouraging children to call Santa was printed incorrectly.

Colonel Harry Shoup, Director of Operations, took the call and instructed his staff to look for any signs on the radar that Santa was moving south from the North Pole.

Following that fortunate incident, the DoD started tracking St Nick’s whereabouts on Christmas Eve every year.

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