Santa Tracker Prepares to Follow the Jolly Fellow on Christmas Eve

Yes, Virginia. There is a way to track Santa Claus.

As has been its tradition for 57 years, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will break out the holiday cheer with all of its Santa Tracker tools, including a new mobile app, to help kids everywhere follow Santa Claus as he delivers gifts around the globe.

So, why would a North American command center that usually is looking out for threats to the air and water turn its attention to jolly Saint Nick? It all started back in 1955, when a local Sears Roebuck & Co. catalog that promised a Santa hotline misprinted the number. Instead of Santa, callers got Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.

Calls going into the command center were generally red alerts from the secretary of defense or even the president. Instead, a little girl on the other end of the line asked for Santa. Col. Harry Shoup, who was working on Christmas Eve, knew a call to service when he heard one. He instructed staff members to check the radar for signs of Santa. And the tradition has continued ever since.

Let's just say that the task is treated with the military precision you would expect from such an organization. As described on its website, NORAD uses radar, digital cameras, and fighter jets to track Santa's Yuletide trip.

Kids can follow Santa's travels on Christmas Eve with a mobile app, on the website (translated into eight languages), by email (, or, yes, by phone (1-877-HI-NORAD).

Last year, NORAD fielded more than 102,000 phone calls and 7,700 emails. Searches on Yahoo! for NORAD Santa Tracker have also increased in the last week. How Santa actually manages to deliver all those gifts to all those kids in one night, well, even NORAD's deputy chief Stacey Knott, admitted to Reuters, "We're not completely sure how he does it. It's a little bit of magic."