Come 6 a.m. on Christmas Eve, volunteers for the North American Aerospace Defense Command will again pick up their phones and headsets to field calls from people keeping tabs on Santa Clause’s path delivering presents around the globe.
But as was the case in 2020, NORAD will modify its Santa-tracking operations to protect workers from COVID-19.
The tradition started in 1955, when a newspaper printed that children could call Santa directly, but accidentally listed the phone number for the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, NORAD’s predecessor, as the contact. United States Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup answered the call, quickly realized the mistake and assured the child who dialed that he was Santa, NORAD said.
Since 1958, when NORAD — a joint air defense effort by the U.S. and Canada — was created, it has carried on the mission of reporting Santa’s location on Christmas Eve.
In past years, NORAD has enlisted the help of 1,500 volunteers to take calls from people inquiring as to Santa’s whereabouts. But this year, the airspace defense center is significantly reducing its in-person staff to prevent COVID spread, just as it did in 2020, according to Major Cameron Hillier, of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
NORAD is still accepting volunteers to help track Santa, Hillier said. On Christmas Eve, calls to NORAD will be routed to many of those people at home, instead of having them come in person to NORAD’s Santa tracking center at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado.
On Dec. 24 at 4 a.m., the Santa Tracker will begin following his sleigh’s path around the world. Two hours later, NORAD’s call center will open.
NORAD on Wednesday launched its 2021 tracking website, which currently features a countdown timer to 4 a.m. on Christmas Eve, along with game, music and other holiday-themed activities.
The website is available in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese.
Santa can also be tracked through an app, social media and Alexa:
- NORAD Tracks Santa app for Apple
- NORAD Tracks Santa app for Google Play
- Call the the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) — opens Dec. 24 at 4 a.m.
- Amazon Alexa users can ask for Santa’s location
- OnStar subscribers can press the OnStar button in their vehicles to locate Santa
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