Video: Courtesy NORAD Tracks Santa
The days of using binoculars to search for Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve have given way to a new era. Through the non-magic of modern technology, children all over the world now know exactly what time they need to be in deep slumber before St. Nick’s feet touchdown on the hearth.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, better known as NORAD, has been tracking Santa’s trips for over six decades. While it may seem obvious that the join American and Canadian air defense agency would track a fast-moving object coming from the north, the whole tracking thing was more big error than Big Brother.
In the 1950s, a Colorado Sears and Roebuck entered into an agreement with Santa to answer children’s calls on Christmas Eve. The store would cover the cost of phone lines, Santa would take calls. A problem arose, however, when a newspaper printed the wrong phone number. So, thousands of calls meant for the North Pole were actually ringing at NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command base.
Not to worry, the U.S. Military was not about to let the nation’s children be disappointed at Christmas. Director of Operations Colonel Harry Shoup promptly ordered radar dishes turned North and the first official tracking of Santa Claus began.
Today, hundreds of volunteers and numerous sponsors have helped expand the program to include satellites and social media. Children don’t have to be tethered to the kitchen wall anymore by the rotary phone. They can see Santa coming via PC, laptop, smartphone, Twitter and Facebook. There’s also apps in the Apple Store and on Google Play.
Children can head to NORAD Track’s Santa site as early as Dec. 1 to play games, watch videos and check out holiday traditions or the story of Christmas in the library. Come Dec. 24, you have the option of tracking Santa via 3-D video rendering or on a 2-D map, or watching movies from Santa’s initial launch and some of his more well-known stops.
Through Bing, children can “free roam” the map and learn about the places Santa has visited.
Google entered the Santa tracking business about 12 years ago, and has added new features each year. Google may not have military hardware to help with its mission, but it does, apparently, have access to satellites and billions of eyes on the ground connected to hands on the Internet.
Much like NORAD, Google also allows children to head to the virtual North Pole on Dec. 1 for games and videos. Googles also features a multi-lingual translation machine. Want to know how to say Santa Claus in Czech (Spoiler alert: it’s Santa Klaus), or Ho Ho Ho in Elvish (yes, Elvish)? You can learn it in Google’s Santa Tracker.
One caveat for parents: You may want to select one tracker and stick with it. If past years are an example, using both sites may return conflicting information.
Merry Christmas and happy tracking.