A holiday tradition born 66 years ago — by accident — will continue in 2021.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, the Colorado-based United States and Canadian bi-national military organization charged with the missions of aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning in defense of North America, will track Santa and his team of reindeer as they traverse the world delivering toys to good boys and girls.
Starting at 3 a.m. on Dec. 24, visitors to the NORAD Tracks Santa website at www.noradsanta.org can see updates as the jolly elf prepares for his flight.
Then, at 5 a.m., trackers worldwide can call to inquire about Santa’s whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723), where they will either speak with a live phone operator or hear a recorded update.
Due to COVID concerns, the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center will have fewer phone operators, so callers who do not reach a volunteer will hear a regularly updated recording as to Santa’s current location.
On Christmas Eve, Amazon Alexa users can ask for Santa’s location through the NORAD Tracks Santa skill for Amazon Alexa, and OnStar subscribers can press the OnStar button in their vehicles to locate Santa. Santa Trackers can also use the Bing search engine to learn of Santa’s location.
The website, which was launched earlier this month, also features Santa’s North Pole Village, which includes a holiday countdown, games, movie theater, holiday music and webstore. The website is available in eight languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese.
Tracking Santa has been a tradition since 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. Shoup then assigned a duty officer to continue answering calls.
NORAD has carried on the duties of tracking Santa since it was created in 1958 and reported Santa’s location on Dec. 24 each year to millions of children and families worldwide.
The official NORAD Tracks Santa app is available in the Apple App and Google Play stores, so parents and children can count the days until Santa’s launch on their smartphones and tablets.
Tracking opportunities are also offered through social media on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.