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How a typo led to the incredible, annual tradition of NORAD tracking Santa

(Photo credit: National Guard Bureau)

For the last 60 years, NORAD has tracked Santa’s flight path across North America on Christmas Eve. The famous sleigh that’s led by the world’s nine most infamous reindeer will soon be making its annual appearance. And thanks to this air defense system of NORAD — that’s North American Aerospace Defense Command — you can see exactly where they’re located … and when they will land at your own house.

Starting on Christmas Eve, kids and Santa fans across the world can follow his flight progress via this free resource. (Prior to December 24th, users can check in to listen to holiday tunes, watch animated elves, and view a countdown in real-time at

Santa and his reindeer are charted by two fighter jet aircrafts as they cross the Canadian border. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

For the nay-sayers out there, NORAD follows the big man in red with the latest tech, creating a reading that’s as accurate as possible. According to the Space Foundation, they use four separate systems, utilizing state-of-the-art equipment, including:

  • Radar
  • Satellites
  • Santa cameras
  • Fighter jet aircraft (American and Canadian alike)

It’s also the hope that tracking Santa via space software will excite kids to explore the capabilities of science expiration today and in their futures. 


NORAD’s celebratory logo for 60 years of Santa-tracking service. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

This tradition has been going on so long, Santa was tracked before NORAD even existed. (Its predecessor, CONAD, AKA Continental Air Defense Command, started the tradition.) 

While there are plenty of benefits to tracking Ole Saint Nick, however, science wasn’t the reason this mission began. In fact, it started by accident. In 1955, long before Kris Kringle could be tracked on a smartphone, kids were encouraged to find Santa’s travel progress through their home’s main form of communication: a landline. 

In a Colorado newspaper, Sears Roebuck & Co. encouraged fans to call a hotline to track Santa’s location. But rather than the intended recording, callers reached CONAD’s hotline. The wrong number had been printed, and hundreds of kids began reaching CONAD’s commander-in-chief operations office. 

After multiple small voices asking for the ETA of Father Christmas himself, they added him to their radar. The staff spent the rest of the evening locating Santa on their equipment and giving his whereabouts to excited callers. 

And the tradition stuck — only becoming more accessible as technology allowed. 

What is NORAD? 

NORAD workers dressing in Santa hats on Christmas Eve. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

NORAD is an organization covering the United States and Canada. Its mission is to ensure air sovereignty and defense throughout North America. Through the above-listed technology, they detect, validate, and warn of any attacks by aircraft, missile, or space vehicles. In 2006, the organization added a maritime warning covering homeland and international waters.

Their tech makes them the perfect medium to follow Santa, able to track him and his reindeer as they skirt across the sky. 

You can follow the flight path online, by calling their phone line, 1-877-HI-NORAD, via app, or on social media.