Rest assured, kids of all ages: Santa’s coming this Christmas Eve, and a second holiday with COVID-19 won’t stop him. That’s the word from the joint US-Canadian military operation that for 66 years has been tracking Jolly Old St. Nicholas on his global mission and has assured us all—first by land line and more recently by iPhone, Android, OnStar, Facebook, YouTube, and more—that he’s on his way with a sleigh stuffed with toys and a welcome dose of joy, the AP reports. In what’s become its own wildly popular tradition, the Colorado-based North American Aerospace Defense Command provides real-time updates on Santa’s progress Dec. 24, from 4am to midnight MST. NORAD’s Santa Tracker lets families watch Father Christmas in 3D as he transits the South Pacific, Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.
From deep inside NORAD headquarters at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs, dozens of volunteers field an unrelenting wave of phone calls to 1-877-HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723). They and other volunteers working off-site because of coronavirus distancing protocols will answer such questions as "When will he come to my house? What kind of cookies does he like?” says program manager and NORAD spokesman Preston Schlachter. Want to watch? Visit https://www.noradsanta.org, check out #NORADTracksSanta and @NoradSanta on Twitter, or use the associated apps. You can also email email@example.com for the latest. Even before Friday’s takeoff, the NORAD webpage had been visited more than 3 million times, Schlachter says.
Like any good Christmas tale, the program’s origin has been told for generations. In 1955, Air Force Col. Harry Shoup—the on-duty commander one night at NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command—answered a call from a child who dialed a number that was misprinted in an ad in a newspaper, thinking she was calling Santa. Shoup "answered the call, thought it was a prank at first, but then realized what had happened and assured the child that he was Santa, and thus started the tradition that we are celebrating now 66 years later," Schlachter says.
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