For more than 60 years, the United States has been tracking Santa’s night ride around the globe because of a typo.
The tradition began in 1955 when a newspaper advertisement for a Colorado Springs department store misprinted the phone number children could use to call Santa. Instead of ringing at the North Pole, the calls went to the commander of the Continental Air Defense Command, which was located nearby.
“Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole,” the military explained.
Children who called that year were given updates on Santa’s trip, and a tradition was born.
The tradition made the jump to NORAD when the organization was formed in 1958 between the United States and Canada, and the military continues to track Santa’s sleigh to this day.
NORAD reports they use a system of 47 interconnected radar locations, called the North Warning System, to track his launch. In the air, Rudolph’s nose can be seen by satellites and is used to track the jolly one’s minute-by-minute position.
Since 2007, NORAD has launched its early detection system December 1. On December 24, eager skywatchers can check progress online or with web-enabled devices and watch in 3D at NORADsanta.org and even follow on Facebook and Twitter.