Politicians are tracking potential Senate votes on President Donald Trump’s impeachment. Art critics are tracking not only the “bests of 2019,” but the “bests of the decade.” And, at least on Christmas Eve, an unlikely military unit will track Santa Claus and his 12 reindeer across the globe: the North American Aerospace Defense Command, a.k.a NORAD.
NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), have collectively kept tabs on jolly old Saint Nick’s late-December flight since 1955. An unexpected phone call started that trend – something you could call a Christmas miracle.
The tradition began the day a child called then-CONAD and asked to speak with Santa. He had dialed a number that a Sears newspaper advertisement said would connect him straight to the man in red. That phone number was one digit off, and instead of speaking with Santa, the child was connected with a colonel at NORAD who couldn’t bear to break the boy’s heart. A tradition was born.
NORAD’s tracking system has evolved in the decades since that phone call. The unit uses satellites, radar, jet fighters, apps, social media accounts and volunteers – a truly coordinated effort – to track Santa’s location for children across the world.
The tracker has been so popular that NORAD now faces some competition. Google also keeps track of Santa with its own system. The two trackers have not always matched up, a testament to Santa’s mischievous ways.
If NORAD and Google somehow fall short of expectations, you can always look up at the night sky to see if you can spot Santa and his reindeer yourself.