So for decades they've depended on the North American Aerospace Defense Command, at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, to keep eyes on him.
NORAD's Tracks Santa program takes Christmas Eve calls from children wanting the whereabouts of the jolly old elf. More than 1,200 volunteers man a command center each year to field all the calls and emails. Even the first lady helps out.
Michelle Obama -- in Hawaii for the holidays with President Obama and the rest of the first family -- took calls Thursday from surprised children (and their parents) who called in.
Obama answered questions about Santa's whereabouts using NORAD's global Santa Tracker.
Kids say the darndest things
So how did the kids react to talking to the wife of the most powerful man in the world?
Well, one child, Anthony, was more excited about his current entertainment options than talking to the first lady about Santa, according to a transcript of the call:
Obama: "What are you doing?"
Anthony: "Just watching TV!"
Obama: "You're just watching TV? But it's Christmas Eve! Aren't you excited that Santa is going to be coming in the morning?"
Anthony: "Yeah, but ... I get to watch TV."
That's OK, Anthony. You'll probably have lots of other opportunities in your life to talk to a first lady.
It wasn't entirely clear if some of the children even knew who she was, although one girl, Kaly, recognized Obama from her appearance last year on "Jessie," a children's show on the Disney Channel. So that counts as a win for the first lady, right?
Obama reminded the kids that Santa couldn't deliver their gifts until they were fast asleep. A boy named Peyton said he would probably need some help with that.
"So are you going to stay up late tonight, or are you going to get a good night's sleep so that you're fresh for Christmas?" Obama asked.
"I'm probably going to ask my mom if I can take a pill that will help me sleep," Peyton said, "because otherwise I'm going to stay up all night."
His mom will probably just give him some Flintstones vitamins or something.
It all started with a call
NORAD Tracks Santa started in 1955, when a child trying to figure out where Santa was dialed a wrong number and ended up talking to a commander at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The commander told the child where Santa was, and a tradition was born. NORAD took over the responsibility of tracking Santa when it was formed in 1958. The program has been online since 1997, and its website -- www.noradsanta.org
-- gets requests from children from around the world.
Obama has participated in this holiday tradition for six straight years.