December has begun so it makes sense, in a ho-ho-ho kind of way, to explain now that the North American Aerospace Defense Command is celebrating its 60th anniversary of tracking Santa Claus’ journey across the globe.
It started in 1955 — the same year that Disneyland opened in Anaheim, Calif. The United States, including the military, seemed a lot more kid-friendly then. It was near the beginning of the burgeoning baby boom population growth, and the World War II generation was eager to overindulge kids. The Santa tracking began when a local media advertisement instructed children to call Santa direct, except the number was misprinted.
Instead of reaching Santa, the calls rang into the Crew Commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center. Instead of being upset by the mistake and all of the kids who called to talk to Santa, the U.S. military showed that it has a heart and began the NORAD Tracks Santa tradition.
It’s doubtful that the carbon police meeting now at the United Nations climate summit in Paris will be worried about Saint Nick’s emissions during this holiday season or any year. People only need to type @noradsanta into a search engine to get started.
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The homepage has a “Santa Tracker Countdown,” giving the number of days, hours, minutes and seconds until Santa and the reindeer take to the skies. The rolling second counter makes watching the digital clock exciting for young children.
The site includes Christmas music, games, movies, a library, activities, and places to click for Twitter, Facebook, Google and YouTube, taking people to other NORAD sites. There are a lot of NORAD personnel dressed for the holidays.
The YouTube site shows Santa’s sleigh pulled by reindeer passing the Statue of Liberty, the Coliseum in Rome, a satellite in space, a TV camera, Air Force fighter jets, mountains, the North Pole and NORAD headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., with military personnel busy at work. For kids who like battleships, submarines and aircraft carriers, they will see those in the NORAD video, too.
It is quite the military display, all care of keeping track of Santa Claus.
Click on the “Let’s go!” in the center of the big globe in the center of the screen, and it will pop kids to “Santa’s Village” with red rooftop gingerbread type houses and elves skating by and busying themselves with other Christmastime chores like looking for mail with Christmas wish lists from little girls and boys.
Not to be left out of the Christmas shopping rush, people can click their way into the NORAD gift shop to buy NORAD Santa stuff. The NORAD website is available in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese.
Kids and adults are in the NORAD YouTube video. Official NORAD Tracks Santa apps are available in Windows, Apple and Google Play stores so parents and kids can countdown Santa’s arrival on their smartphones and tablets.
Who would want the looming Republican threat of a government shutdown to end all of this?
Starting at 1:01 a.m. Central time on Dec. 24, website visitors will be able to watch Santa make preparations for his flight. NORAD’s “Santa Cams” will stream feeds on the website as Santa travels, delivering Christmas gifts.
At 5 a.m. Central time on Dec. 24, kids can call the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) to speak with a live phone operator to ask where Santa might be. Kids can also send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. OnStar subscribers can press the OnStar button on their vehicles on Dec. 24 to find Santa.
A number of public and private groups make Santa tracking effort possible. A North American Aerospace Defense Command news release says this year’s contributors include the 21st Space Wing, 140th Wing, Acuity Scheduling, Alaska NORAD Region, America Forces Network (AFN), Analytical Graphics, Inc., Avaya, BeMerry! Santa / Noerr Programs, Bing®, Canadian NORAD Region, Chirpon, The Citadel Mall, Civil Air Patrol, Christmas in the Park, Colorado Springs Business Alliance, Continental NORAD Region, CradlePoint, Defense Video & Imagery Distribution Systems, DoD News, The Elf on the Shelf, Extended Stay America, Federal Aviation Administration, Getty Images, Globelink Foreign Language Center, Harris, Hewlett Packard (HP), iLink-Systems, Kids.gov, Level 3 Communications, Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, Meshbox, Microsoft®, Naden Band of Maritime Forces Pacific, National Tree Lighting Ceremony, Naturally Santa’s Inc., Office Depot/Office Max, OneRender, OnStar, PCI Broadband, Portable North Pole/Ugroup Media, Pueblo Riverwalk, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Colorado, Save the Children, Sears, Space Foundation, Spil Games, SiriusXM®, Strategic Air & Space Museum, Unity, U.S. Air Force Academy Band, U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West, U.S. Air Force Band of the West, U.S. Air Force Band, U.S. Air Force Heartland of America Band, U.S. Army Ground Forces Band, U.S. Band of MidAmerica, U.S. Coast Guard Band, U.S. Department of State Family Liaison Office, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, U.S. Postal Service, Verizon, Visionbox, West Point Band, Windows Azure, and Xtomic.
NORAD Tracks Santa is a global way to unite children and families even if it’s care of the world’s largest military industrial complex.