We all know that on Christmas Eve you can call NORAD or visit their website to find out where Santa is, but how exactly did NORAD come to be in charge of Santa’s global voyage on Christmas Eve?
It was back in 1955 that Sears Roebuck & Company in Colorado Springs printed a newspaper advertisement telling kids that they can call Santa about their holiday toys, but the number was misprinted and instead of getting an elf at Sears, kids ended up getting a soldier at the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), guarding America against surprise attacks. The frazzled soldiers looked to the CONAD Director of Operations for guidance regarding Santa. The old elf obviously was not a threat to America’s security, but the volume of calls was not diminishing. Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup, the CONAD duty officer at the time, instructed all the soldiers to report Santa’s position to the callers. It may not have been in the scope of their mission, but it was the right thing to do. Santa tracking became an annual tradition at CONAD as their mission was to watch the skies.
In 1958 Canada and the United States agreed to enter joint monitoring of North American air space, creating the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and replacing CONAD. And CONAD’s Christmas Eve mission to track Santa transitioned to NORAD, along with all of the other national security duties.
In the early days of the Santa Tracking program, the calls were taken by military personnel, first those who actively watched the skies, then, to ease their burden, volunteer soldiers were used to field Santa questions. The annual tradition grew to include families and friends of the soldiers and over time the public engaged in the project, supporting the massive volume of calls inquiring about Santa.
Today hundreds of volunteers take calls from kids, asking where Santa is and when he will visit with presents. Outside of basic publicity, NORAD’s Santa Tracking program is not taxpayer funded. It is staffed by volunteers and receives corporate sponsorship to support the website, the phone lines and office operations.
Christmas Eve Santa tracking has grown from an accidental misprint to a major operation over the years, all because Colonel Harry Shoup cared about the curious children as much as he did about national security. His willingness to step up and provide information led to a legacy that is world renowned.
Curious as to where Santa is on Christmas Eve? Check out the Santa tracking website at http://www.noradsanta.org/ or call the NORAD volunteers at 877-HI-NORAD (877-446-6723). But remember, Santa stops at your house only when you’re asleep.
Good night. And Merry Christmas!