NORAD's Santa tracker is being criticized by a children's advocacy group. The North American Aerospace Defense Command entertains millions of children every year with an up-to-date visual simulation of Santa's location on Christmas Eve. However, the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood has criticized the tradition as promoting "militarism."
The organization is specifically critical of promotional video, which depicts Santa and his reindeer being escorted by two fighter jets. Members of the organization complained that the military jets promote militarism and violence, which may be harmful to children.
NORAD spokesman US Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the video is "safe and non-threatening... not something that would negatively impact children." He explained that the jets have been accompanying Santa on his journey since the 1960s. He also pointed out that the jets are unarmed Canadian Air Force CF-18s.
As reported by The Denver Channel, the controversy eventually attracted the attention of more than 265,000 YouTube viewers.
The NORAD Santa tracker actually started in 1955 with a misprint in a Sears ad. The advertisements were placed in newspapers across the nation, inviting children to call Santa on the telephone. Unfortunately, the number listed in a Colorado Springs, Colorado, newspaper directed callers to the Continental Air Defense Command -- which was the predecessor of NORAD.
The Atlantic reports that the number, which was meant to be top-secret, suddenly began receiving calls from hundreds of children. CONAD officials were confused and the children were terribly disappointed.
When the calls did not stop, officials decided to take the calls and provide the children with informational updates about Santa's location. The misprint eventually led to an annual tradition.
By 2009, volunteers from every branch of the military were handling more than 70,000 calls every year. Although the line still receives calls, NORAD's Santa tracker also provides children with a visual tool to monitor Santa's progress.