First, it may help to know what NORAD stands for. NORAD is an abbreviation for the North American Air Defense Command, which was known as CONAD, or the Continental Air Defense Command, until the late 1950s. In 1958, the United States and Canada joined together to form NORAD in order to warn and defend the continent more effectively in the case of an attack. The North American Air Defense Command watches the airways for intrusions such as planes or missiles and warns if any unrecognized object should enter protected airways and more recently, waterways as well.
So, why does an important entity like NORAD track Santa Claus? That also started back in the 1950s and came about because of a simple mistake. In 1955, a Sears store, at the time known as Sears Roebuck and Company, placed Christmas advertising that included a phone number where children could reach Santa Claus. The only problem was that the phone number was printed incorrectly.
As excited children began dialing on Christmas Eve, they reached CONAD, instead of Santa. The Colonel in charge recognized what had occurred, and as an act of kindness, had his team check the radar to see where Santa might be. Children were told of his speculated location when they called.
Tracking Santa became a Christmas Eve custom after that. When CONAD became NORAD, the custom was passed along and is still in practice today. Information about Santa is now available in six different languages and children and their families can track Santa by calling or by viewing the NORAD website. The NORAD site also has a countdown that shows exactly how long it will be until Santa leaves the North Pole, which includes the days, the hours, the minutes, and even the seconds. Children can learn the very second Santa begins his journey, and track his progress toward their locations.
For those concerned about this use of taxpayer’s dollars, remember that much of this effort is simply an exercise in creativity and imagination. In addition, NORAD states that people from both the United States and Canada work voluntarily to help track Santa Claus. If you would like to learn more about this Christmas Eve tradition, or if you would like to follow Santa’s progress, please visit the NORAD website for more information. Merry Christmas to all and to Santa, good flight!