For 364 days out of the year, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) spends its time tracking airplanes, missiles, space ships—anything flying near the United States and Canada.
But on Christmas Eve, a team of volunteers spends the night tracking a very special pilot: Santa Claus.
"We are the only organization that has the technology, the qualifications and the people to do it," NORAD said on its website. "NORAD tracks Santa, but only Santa knows his route, which means we cannot predict where and when he will arrive at your house."
Santa usually starts at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean and travels west, NORAD noticed, meaning he moves from the South Pacific to New Zealand, Australia, Asia, Africa and Europe before arriving in New Jersey.
NORAD has tracked Santa for more than 50 years, ever since a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. ad misprinted a telephone number for calling Santa. Instead of reaching the North Pole workshop, the phone number put children through to NORAD’s director of operations, who had his staff check the radar for Santa’s progress.
"Mountains of historical data and over 50 years of NORAD tracking information leads us to believe that Santa Claus is alive and well in the hearts of people throughout the world," NORAD wrote on its website.
NORAD will start tracking Santa’s real-time progress starting at 1 a.m. on Dec. 24. This year, NORAD partnered with Google, so just type “Santa” into Google Maps to find his location.
Children can also call or email to check when Santa will be nearby. Dial 1-877-446-6723 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get an update starting at 3 a.m. on Dec. 24.