NORAD will still track Santa, despite the government shutdown

Even though the United States government’s shutdown has forced agencies to run with a skeleton staff, it won’t be affecting a long-running holiday tradition.  The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) confirmed that it’ll still be tracking Santa’s journey on Christmas Eve, which it has done so for the last 63 years.

Every year, around 1,500 volunteers take calls and answer emails from kids around the world about the whereabouts of Santa Claus with the help of satellite systems, high-powered radars and jet fighters.

In 2018, NORAD will also be publishing Santa’s location on social media, however, an estimated 140,000 calls are still expected to be made to the hotline, with volunteers taking two-hour shifts to answer enquiries.

NORAD Tracks Santa wouldn’t have started if not for a typo appearing on a newspaper ad back in 1955. The ad was placed on behalf of Sears, purporting to be from Santa himself. The ad read:

“HEY KIDDIES! Call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time day or night”.

The ad published the wrong phone number, which directed to a top-secret CONAD (the predecessor to NORAD) line reserved for reporting a crisis. On duty was Colonel Harry Shoup, who received a call from a child looking for Santa Claus.  Shoup, initially thinking it was a prank, was incensed. But after realising it was indeed from a child, Shoup decided to play along as Santa.  Then, more calls from children came in, thus beginning a long holiday tradition that’s persevered to this day. Even if all in the White House is not well.

How to Track Santa on Christmas Eve in 2012

For 62 years, the North American Aerospace Defense Command has been tracking Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, as he makes his way around the world delivering gifts to all the good boys and girls.

This year, the tradition will continue, and now there are even more ways that you and your little ones can follow Father Christmas’ progress. A stunning 25 million people from around the globe are predicted to follow Santa in real-time online, on mobile phones and tablets, by email and phone.

What makes the program so special is that more than 1,250 Canadian and American uniformed personnel and Defense-Department civilians volunteer their time on Christmas Eve to answer thousands of phone calls and emails.

Interestingly, the popular tradition actually began by mistake, as Capt. Jeff Davis, director of NORAD and the U.S. Northern Command Public Affairs, recently revealed in a guest post on Microsoft’s official blog:

It’s hard to believe it all started with a typo. A program renowned the world over — one that brings in thousands of volunteers, prominent figures such as the First Lady of the United States, and one that has been going on for more than five decades — all started as a misprint.

That error ran in a local Colorado Springs newspaper back in 1955 after a local department store printed an advertisement with an incorrect phone number that children could use to ‘call Santa.’ Except that someone goofed. Or someone mistook a three for an eight. Maybe elves broke into the newspaper and changed the number. We’ll never know.

But somehow, the number in the advertisement changed, and instead of reaching the ‘Santa’ on call for the local department store, it rang at the desk of the Crew Commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, the organization that would one day become the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or ‘NORAD.’

And when the commander on duty, Col. Harry Shoup, first picked up the phone and heard kids asking for Santa, he could have told them they had a wrong number.

But he didn’t.

Instead, the kind-hearted colonel asked his crew to play along and find Santa’s location. Just like that, NORAD was in the Santa-tracking business.

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