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Story highlights

This is the 62nd year of the program's existence

It began because of a typo in a store ad

(CNN) —  

The US military command that is charged with protecting the airspace for North America is on alert this Christmas weekend for a man with a white beard and a red suit.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is tracking a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer around the world as it heads for US airspace Sunday night.

The public can access NORAD’s official Santa Tracker to watch Santa Claus’ voyage. They can track his whereabouts and access NORAD’s “Santa Cams” as he journeys around the world to bring joy to good boys and girls.

The public can also call 1-877-HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) and speak live with NORAD trackers. People stuck in the car on the way to Grandmother’s house, and with an OnStar subscription, can access the tracker by hitting their OnStar button. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump also participated in phone calls.

Marine Col. Bob Brodie of the 601st Air Operations Center said fighter jets will “fly along (Santa’s) wing” in a “close escort,” and that the center will “monitor him with our satellites and even have infrared trackers to follow Rudolph.”

NORAD

The Santa Tracker program began in 1955 because of a mistake in a Colorado Springs newspaper advertisement from Sears Roebuck & Co. The Sears ad misprinted the telephone number for children to call Santa. The phone number published was actually for the commander in chief’s operations hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), which was NORAD’s predecessor.

Col. Harry Shoup
NORAD
Col. Harry Shoup

On December 24, 1955, Air Force Col. Harry Shoup was on duty, and instead of hanging up on countless children that night, Shoup checked the radar and updated the eager children on jolly old Saint Nick’s location. That 1955 misprint and Shoup’s actions started a 62-year tradition that is made possible today by volunteers and corporate sponsors who bear the expense.