The joint US-Canadian military monitoring agency, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), holds a long-standing Christmas tradition of tracking Santa Claus’s whereabouts during his global gift-giving mission. The tradition began in 1955 when a Colorado newspaper mistakenly printed a phone number leading to NORAD’s military defense center instead of Santa’s hotline. To avoid disappointing children, NORAD’s director of operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, quickly improvised by using radar technology to locate Santa’s position and provide timely updates to eager youngsters. Today, nearly seven decades later, NORAD maintains a temporary call center at its headquarters in Colorado to answer children’s inquiries and keep the tradition alive.

NORAD’s Santa Tracker has evolved into a 3-D interactive website ( that engages children worldwide. The website allows users to visually follow Santa Claus and his reindeer on an imagined delivery route, clicking on various cities to learn more about the places he visits. This immersive experience adds an element of excitement and wonder for children, heightening their anticipation and enjoyment of the Christmas season. The technological advancements in the Santa Tracker enhance the overall experience and demonstrate NORAD’s commitment to embracing modern tools while preserving a cherished tradition.

The involvement of top-level US dignitaries, such as President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, in NORAD’s Santa tracking calls showcases the importance and significance of this tradition. The President and First Lady joined in on the holiday action by participating in the calls with children and families across the country. This level of participation from the highest levels of government reflects the wide-reaching appeal and positive impact of NORAD’s Santa Tracker. It not only brings joy and happiness to children but also fosters a sense of unity and connection among people of all ages during the festive season.

Although NORAD’s Santa Tracker experienced technical difficulties earlier during the Christmas season, resulting in temporary disruptions to the tracking map, the team behind the operation quickly resolved the issue. The prompt fix demonstrates NORAD’s commitment to ensuring that children worldwide can continue to follow Santa’s journey with excitement and reassurance. Despite encountering occasional glitches, the overall success and reliability of the Santa Tracker over the years speak to the resilience and dedication of the NORAD team in delivering an unforgettable experience to children and families.

Through NORAD’s Santa Tracker, children can witness Santa’s extraordinary global journey, spreading holiday cheer across continents and delivering an astonishing number of gifts. From the International Space Station to various countries, including Israel, Gaza, Africa, and Antarctica’s Palmer Station, Santa’s reindeer-pulled sleigh leaves a trail of joy in its wake. The tracker reveals Santa’s remarkable speed, unloading approximately 100,000 gifts every second, resulting in a staggering total of 4.9 billion presents as of 0130 GMT on Christmas Eve. This portrayal of Santa as a generous and tireless giver conveys a heartwarming message and reinforces the spirit of giving during the festive season.

Beyond its Christmas traditions, NORAD serves a vital role in aerospace and maritime control and warning operations, including monitoring potential missile launches from North Korea. While the Santa Tracker showcases NORAD’s whimsical side, it is essential to acknowledge the agency’s serious responsibilities in safeguarding North American airspace. The balance between Christmas cheer and national security underscores NORAD’s dedication to both its primary mission and its commitment to fostering joy and wonder during the holidays.

NORAD’s Santa Tracker is an enduring and beloved Christmas tradition that has captured the hearts of children and adults for decades. Through its technological advancements and immersive experience, the tracker brings excitement and joy to households worldwide. The involvement of US dignitaries highlights the wide-ranging appeal and impact of this festive tradition. Despite occasional technical difficulties, the Santa Tracker perseveres, offering a glimpse into Santa’s global journey and reinforcing the spirit of generosity and togetherness. NORAD’s dual role as both a military monitoring agency and a bearer of holiday cheer further underscores the agency’s commitment to its mission and its ability to spread joy during the Christmas season.


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