Santa and sleigh in skyFor generations children around the world have waited for the arrival of Santa. They have to go to bed before he arrives, of course, but will he make it? He has so many stops to make.  What if it takes him too long? Thanks to NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command ), your child can follow Santa’s travels around the world and see his steady progress. How did NORAD come to track Santa in the first place? The story is one that demonstrates the kindness of the human heart and the willingness to make children happy and keep the magic of Christmas alive.  It all started with a typo.

Why Did NORAD Start Tracking Santa?

In December of 1955, a local newspaper in Colorado Springs, Colorado, ran an ad by Sears Roebuck that read: “Hey Kiddies! Call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time day or night.” It then listed the phone number children could call in order to talk to Santa. The problem was that the number was one digit off, so instead of calling Sears, children ended up calling the red phone at CONRAD (Continental Air Defense Command), the precursor to NORAD.

The red phone wasn’t red to represent Santa or Christmas. It was red because calls that came through were from either the Pentagon or the CONAD commander in chief, and they were likely to convey something unpleasant – until a call came on December 24th, 1955.  The director of operations at the time was U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup. When he answered the phone, he expected to hear someone tell him or some dire situation or give him orders. Instead, he heard the voice of a little girl, “Are you really Santa Clause?” she asked.

After a stunned moment, Col. Shoup decided to play along. “Yes, I am. Have you been a good little girl?” Throughout the night, the phone rang with calls coming from children wanting to talk to Santa. Col. Shoup assigned some of the airmen to take the calls and give the children Santa’s location as they tracked him on their radar.

A Tradition is Born

Those phone calls could have ended that year, but instead a tradition was born. CONRAD, later NORAD, was not only willing to take calls that Christmas Eve in 1955, but they established a new phone line for the sole purpose of giving children everywhere to talk to Santa and advertised the number. With the internet, NORAD has been able to also show on a map just where their radar has located Santa.

Col. Shoup could easily have instructed his men to tell the children that they had the wrong number. After all, this was the red phone, the line that would be called in case of missiles heading for America or some other such threatening situtation. He could have had his men provide the correct number. Instead, he kept the magic of Christmas alive for many children that night and added a touch that Sears Roebuck couldn’t have offered – he let children know just where Santa was on his travels around the world.

Carol BainbridgeHolidaysChristmas,December Holidays
For generations children around the world have waited for the arrival of Santa. They have to go to bed before he arrives, of course, but will he make it? He has so many stops to make.  What if it takes him too long? Thanks to NORAD (North American Aerospace...