The Santa Tracker has been a favorite Christmas Eve tradition for decades, and in 2015, there are more ways than ever to follow Santa Claus on his gift-giving trip around the world.
This year, there are a number of apps, websites, and yes, even real telephone numbers where kids and their families can check with Santa during his annual duties. They range from the original NORAD Santa Tracker to some new options offered by Google. There are even games and other activities to keep kids busy during the anticipation of presents arriving — and some tips to get the kids to bed so Santa can arrive.
The original Santa Tracker traces its roots back 60 years ago, when a newspaper misprint accidentally gave out the phone number to the national air defense center on Colorado Springs. Rather than correct the kids calling in to check where Santa was in the world, KTVA reported that NORAD instead chose to play along.
“The commander at the time said, ‘We’re just going to take all these calls and give updates to everybody as we see him flying around the world,'” said Alaska NORAD Region identification technician Staff Sgt. Brian Garverick.
U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, who led the organization (then known as CONAD), was the one who answered when the calls started coming in on a secure, emergency line.
“Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number,” his daughter Pam told the UK’s Telegraph.
Pam said there was a child on the other end, asking, “Is this Santa Claus?”
“And Dad realized that it wasn’t a joke,” Pam’s sister Terri says. “So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho’d and asked if he had been a good boy and, ‘May I talk to your mother?’ And the mother got on and said, ‘You haven’t seen the paper yet? There’s a phone number to call Santa. It’s in the Sears ad.'”
The NORAD Santa Tracker is available in eight different languages and shows information about a number of Santa’s stops along the way.
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“Users can see where Santa stops along different locations in the world,” said Stacey Knott, the NORAD track Santa spokesperson. “Of course, we can’t show every single one of Santa’s stops but we do show a lot of those around the world and every single country.”
Santa kicked off his journey at 2 a.m. ET, first stopping in the Republic of Kiribati, which is a collection of 32 atolls in the Pacific Ocean.
The NORAD Santa Tracker isn’t the only way to follow Santa Claus. Google, which previously partnered with NORAD, has its own Santa Tracker. While kids are waiting to follow Santa along the site’s dashboard, they can also play games and activities in Santa’s Village.
There is a second option related to Google, though not run by the company. The people who run the Google Earth Blog are running the now-defunct Google Earth version of the Santa Tracker.
Those who want to follow the 2015 Santa Tracker have many options. The NORAD website can be found here, and those who want a live experience can actually check with an operator at 877-Hi-NORAD (877-446-6723). Updates are also available by email at email@example.com, on the a NORAD Facebook page, and through the site’s Twitter handle at @NoradSanta.
The Google Santa Tracker 2015 can be found here.
[Image via Google Santa Tracker]