Skip to main content

NORAD keeping Santa on its radar

By Chandler Friedman, CNN
updated 8:49 AM EST, Tue December 25, 2012
The cold water of Barcelona's Port Vell doesn't deter this swimmer dressed up as St. Nick from joining in the Copa Nadal swimming race, a traditional holiday event in the Spanish seaport, on Tuesday, December 25. The cold water of Barcelona's Port Vell doesn't deter this swimmer dressed up as St. Nick from joining in the Copa Nadal swimming race, a traditional holiday event in the Spanish seaport, on Tuesday, December 25.
HIDE CAPTION
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
Santa sightings around the world
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Michelle Obama takes some calls from children
  • The North American Aerospace Defense Command started tracking Santa in the 1950s
  • This season, Santa trackers are expected to receive more than 100,000 calls, 10,000 e-mails
  • Some questions stray from the typical

(CNN) -- The little girl was deeply concerned.

So on Christmas Eve, she called in to the North American Aerospace Defense Command's Santa tracking center with an urgent question:

"If I lose my tooth, and the Tooth Fairy comes, could the Tooth Fairy scare away Santa Claus?"

The Santa trackers at NORAD started on Christmas Eve at 6 a.m. ET, fielding questions from all over the globe and continuing a tradition that began by accident in 1955.

Track Santa with your smartphone
Santa delivers dad for Christmas
Santa brings cheer to Sandy victims
Signing Santa brings big smile to child

That year, an ad placed in a local Colorado Springs newspaper encouraged kids to call a phone number to find out Santa's whereabouts on Christmas Eve, but instead of the intended number, the operations center for what is now called NORAD was printed.

Col. Harry Shoup was in charge that night, and instead of hanging up, he had his operators find Santa and report on his location.

NORAD is typically charged with detecting attacks against North America by aircraft, missiles or space vehicles, but on Christmas Eve, its high-tech tools of detection are repurposed to find and track Santa.

John Cornelio, a media spokesman at NORAD, says the organization is on track to receive more than 100,000 calls and 10,000 e-mails. He says the volunteer Santa trackers are mostly NORAD workers or their family members. After a quick briefing, the trackers start taking calls, relaying Santa's position as shown on a big screen on the front wall of the call center. Tracking information is also posted to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

On the other end of the phone for some lucky youngsters Monday was first lady Michelle Obama, who watched Santa's progress along with children nationwide from her vacation in Hawaii.

When 5-year-old Fischer from North Carolina called her, Santa was delivering presents to the children of Libya.

"And you know how many gifts he's delivered already?" the first lady asked Fischer, who said he wanted a four-wheeler for Christmas.

"No, m'am," he replied, according to a transcript from the White House.

The first lady replied, "More than 3 billion gifts he's already delivered."

Abby, whose favorite Christmas song is "Silver Bells," spoke with Michelle Obama alongside her siblings, Lilli and Kyle, while Santa flew over Italy.

And Kayla, age 4, guessed that the red nose visible on the satellite as the sleigh flew over the sleeping children of Croatia was "Rudolph the Reindeer."

Cornelio says NORAD has learned that Santa "roughly arrives at homes between 9 p.m. and midnight, but only after the kids have gone to bed." He says that kids can help make things a lot easier for Santa if they're in bed at that time so he doesn't have to backtrack.

As for the monumental logistical challenge of delivering all those gifts (NORAD reports that he's already delivered more than 2 billion gifts, as of 1 p.m. ET), Cornelio says that time to Santa is different from what it is to most people.

"What seems like 24 hours to you and I actually is a lot more significant period of time to Santa. ... That's what allows him to actually travel all around the world in a 24-hour period."

While the Santa trackers handle a variety of questions, there are some they just don't have the answer to. One child called in earlier to ask if Santa likes President Barack Obama or his electoral opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Cornelio replied: "Santa would have to best answer that question. What we do is make sure Santa travels safely."

To reach the Santa trackers, call 1-877-Hi NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or e-mail noradtrackssanta@outlook.com.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Christmas
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Don't tell the kids, but we've got Santa Claus all wrong.
updated 1:43 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Any old city can string up a few lights downtown and call it a holiday celebration.
updated 7:48 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Christmas in the United States is a combination of traditions from around the world.
updated 10:29 AM EST, Mon December 8, 2014
There, glaring in red and green at the bottom of the holiday party Evite, lurks the season's most vague directive: "Dress festively."
updated 9:56 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Need gift ideas? We're here to help.
updated 5:36 AM EST, Mon December 24, 2012
Jen Best from Liberty, Misouri, snapped this adorable picture of her six month old nephew, Grayson, playing with fairy lights after seeing the idea on Pintrest.
Christmas is synonymous with colorful decorations, festive markets and extravagant quantities of food.
christmas pudding
As winter arrives, British minds turn towards comfort food, and there's nothing more comforting than a traditional suet pudding. Suet, as in, beef fat? In a dessert? Why yes, actually.
updated 8:51 AM EST, Sun December 23, 2012
Santa's reindeer have a story and a history all of their own, one tied to the oldest indigenous culture in Northern Europe and accelerated by an American entrepreneur.
Throughout the years, Magnum's photographers have captured Santa Claus around the globe in humorous circumstances.
Where did the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe come from? And is the plant a tree-killer?
updated 10:45 AM EST, Sat December 22, 2012
Here's a partridge-in-a-pear-tree approach to dealing with anything (and anyone) that the season throws your way.
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Christians didn't celebrate Christmas in the first two centuries. It wasn't until the middle of the fourth century that almanacs began to list it as a celebration.
updated 7:08 AM EST, Thu December 20, 2012
Don't let squabbles over traditions and simple things ruin your holiday this year. Here are tips and tricks on how to avoid family feuds and failed friendships.
updated 1:15 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The holidays are supposed to be the happiest time of the year, yet for many, they trigger deep feelings of sadness and anxiety.
updated 4:33 PM EST, Wed December 19, 2012
I'm not a Grinch or a Scrooge or any of the other soot-stained slurs hurled by people fed up with a loved one's reluctance to join the reindeer games. What I am is depressed.
updated 10:22 AM EST, Sun December 23, 2012
For something intended to bring pleasure to loved ones, Christmas shopping in the Internet age can be a peculiarly joyless and atomized activity. But European Christmas markets are pure magic.
updated 8:00 AM EST, Mon December 10, 2012
Prepare yourself: Some of these are pretty quirky. How much do you know?
updated 4:36 PM EST, Mon December 23, 2013
With Christmas comes Christmas trivia. Here's a look at the holiday by the numbers:
updated 9:07 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Roy Pickler lay on the floor, dripping with sweat, as trainer Bob Harper quipped, "You look like you got run over by a reindeer."
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT