(PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.) — On Christmas Eve, children all around the world will lie awake wondering if, at any moment, Santa Claus will slide down their chimneys and leave the presents of their dreams. But all they really have to do is call in or go online to find out where Santa and his team of reindeers are at any given moment.
Every year, the North American Aerospace Defense Command tracks Santa’s journey around the world, using radar, satellite, fighter aircraft and, of course, a “Santa Cam.”
The tradition began as so many do — by accident. In 1955, a little girl who saw a Sears and Roebuck ad called in to what she thought was a Talk-to-Santa hotline. But she did not hear Santa Claus on the other end of the line.
Instead, she heard Col. Harry Shoup. He was working in the CONAD ops center (NORAD’s predecessor) and was shocked to hear a child’s voice. According to a NORAD spokesperson, John Cornelio, only two people had the number for that line — the president and the four-star commander.
As it turned out, the department store had printed the wrong number in the ad and alas, a tradition was born.
“It’s the innocence of the story that makes it so special,” Cornelio said. And Harry Shoup was given a new title — he is known as Santa Colonel.
Since that innocent phone call more than 50 years ago, NORAD tracks Santa’s progress around the globe, year after year.
To track his journey this Christmas Eve, you can visit the NORAD website, or call in to 877-HI-NORAD.
The NORAD Santa Tracker also uses social media to connect with Santa enthusiasts. NORAD has Facebook and Twitter pages, and a YouTube channel. And this year, for the first time, NORAD has a smart phone application for Andriod and iPhone users.
NORAD expects more than 80,000 phone calls and 20 million people using its website to track Santa this year.
So come Christmas Eve, when not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse, break the silence and see just how close Santa is to bringing joy to your area.
Copyright 2011 ABC News
Evan McKirdy, Tim Hume and James Masters, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Theodore Schleifer, CNN