System Error Leads to Traditional Tracking
December 24, 1955: A Sears department store ad contains a misprint. The Colorado Springs newspaper ran an advertisement telling children they could telephone Santa Claus and speak with the big guy. The number included was not correct and instead was the number for the Colorado Springs Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. Colonel Harry Shoup was in charge that fateful night and asked his staff to pass on a message to the children. They were to tell the kids Santa’s “current location”. A tradition began with a simple misprint and one understanding Colonel. In 1958, there was a name change and CONAD became the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command.
Today, with the help of volunteer elves, NORAD responds to about 40 telephone calls per hour and about answers about 12,000 emails. There are more than 70,000 phone calls made from over 200 countries during a 25 hour period which lasts from 2 AM on December 24 and ends on December 25 at 3 AM MST. Google Analytics was first implemented in 2007 and they have helped analyze the traffic at the NORAD Tracks Santa website. This has helped to gather together the correct number of volunteer staffing, telephone lines, and computer equipment. The volunteers are both military and civilian. All Santa’s helpers ensure that kids around the world get a chance to keep an eye out for Santa.
Beginning in the 1950s and up to 1996, the NORAD Tracks Santa program used telephone hotlines, newspapers, radios, phonograph records, and television to keep interested children posted. Even now, many television weather reports on Christmas Eve include an update on Santa’s position. Beginning in 1997, Santa became tech savvy and had his own website. Both mobile media and social media help to pass along information on Santa’s trip around the world. Between 2004 and 2009, people wishing to do so could download Google Earth and track Santa using that application.
NORAD maintains the website year round but if you visit it between January and November 30, a message asks you to return on December 1. During December, NORAD’s site is filled with many features. And then, on Christmas Eve, NORAD lets you watch Santa fly his sleigh full of presents around the globe. Videos are generally updated each hour, as Santa enters a new time zone’s midnight hour. There are images of Santa flying over famous landmarks in that zone often with celebrity voice overs. In 2013, there were 19.58 million unique visitors on Christmas Eve and 1,200 volunteers answered 117,371 calls. There were 146,307 Twitter followers and 1.45 million “likes” from Facebook.
Christmas at my house is always at least six or seven times more pleasant than anywhere else. We start drinking early. And while everyone else is seeing only one Santa Claus, we’ll be seeing six or seven. – W. C. Fields
“In all this world there is nothing so beautiful as a happy child,” says good old Santa Claus; and if he had his way the children would all be beautiful, for all would be happy. – L. Frank Baum
Believe in love. Believe in magic. Hell, believe in Santa Clause. Believe in others. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. If you don’t, who will? – Jon Bon Jovi
Santa is very jolly because he knows where all the bad girls live. – Dennis Miller
Also on this day: The South Shall Rise Again – In 1865, six men began the KKK, then a simple social club.
Christmas – In 1777, James Cook discovered an uninhabited island in the Pacific.
Shhhhhh! – In 1818, Silent Night was written.
Eggnog Riot – In 1826, a riot broke out at West Point.
Italian Hall Disaster – In 1913, the hall caught fire during a Christmas party.