Rudolph’s bright red nose helps NORAD track Santa on Christmas Eve

Volunteers man the phone at NORAD headquarters each Christmas Eve to field the questions of boys and girls tracking the journey of Santa Claus.

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, CO. — The North American Aerospace Defense Command is always at the ready to defend the homeland — and on Dec. 24 will continue to do that but also what is arguably it’s most publicly popular mission — tracking Santa’s journey around the globe on Christmas Eve.

“In addition to our day-to-day mission of defending North America, we are proud to carry on the tradition of tracking Santa as he travels along his yuletide flight path,” said Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command in a release. “The same radars, satellites and interceptors employed on December 24 are used year-round to defend Canadian and American airspace from threats.”

The defense of Canada and the United States is the top priority of NORAD, a binational U.S. and Canadian command charged with aerospace and maritime warning and aerospace control of North America as well as monitoring aerospace activity globally, the release notes.

But every year during the Christmas holiday season, NORAD assumes the supplementary mission of tracking Santa as he travels around the world.

The tradition began by accident in 1955 when a local newspaper advertisement informed children they could call Santa directly — but the contact number was misprinted.

Instead of reaching Santa, the phone rang through to the crew commander on duty, U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, the predecessor to NORAD.

Shoup was quick to realize a mistake had been made and assured the child he was Santa, according to NORAD. Shoup then assigned a duty officer to continue answering calls. A tradition was born, and continued when NORAD was formed in 1958. Each year since, NORAD has reported Santa’s location on Dec. 24 to millions of children and families.

Once Santa leaves the North Pole, his trip starts at the International Date Line and moves west, according to NORAD.

A spokesman has explained the satellites used to track Santa have infrared sensors that can see heat and so Rudolph’s red nose is easily spotted.

Once Santa leaves the North Pole, his trip starts at the International Date Line and moves west, according to NORAD.

A spokesman has explained the satellites used to track Santa have infrared sensors that can see heat and so Rudolph’s red nose is easily spotted.

On Dec. 1, the 64th iteration of NORAD Tracks Santa began with the launch of the http://www.noradsanta.orgwebsite.

The program works because of a huge contingent of volunteers and contributors.

On Dec. 24, users also can call 1-877-HiNORAD for Santa’s up-to-date location.

Further, starting on Dec. 24 at 2:01 a.m. EST, website visitors can watch Santa prepare for his flight. NORAD’s “Santa Cams” will stream videos on the website as Santa makes his way over various locations. Then, starting at 6 a.m. EST, trackers worldwide can speak with a live phone operator to inquire as to Santa’s whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number or by sending an email to noradtrackssanta@outlook.com or by following the official NORAD Tracks Santa social media channels.

Additionally, any time on Dec. 24, Amazon Alexa users can ask for Santa’s location through the NORAD Tracks Santa skill for Amazon Alexa, and OnStar members can push the blue OnStar button in their vehicles to locate Santa.

Each year, the NORAD Tracks Santa Website receives nearly nine million unique visitors from more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Volunteers receive more than 140,000 calls to the NORAD Tracks Santa hotline from children around the globe.

Since regular operations protecting North America must also continue, volunteers take two-hour shifts for a 23-hour period. It is so joyous reporting on Santa, however, that most volunteers stay longer, a NORAD spokesman has said.

NORAD officials have said some of the answers to popular questions are: Santa’s sleigh is propelled by nine-reindeer power; the fuel is hay, oats and carrots; and its maximum speed is “faster than starlight.” And the sleigh weighs 75,000 gumdrops.

One of the most common questions is, “How can Santa travel the globe in one night?”

The answer to that, a NORAD spokesman has said, is that Santa experiences time differently than we do. So our day may be a week or month to him.

Connecticut Media Group