NORAD tracks Santa’s Christmas Eve route for 68th year

Writer: Sylvie Sparks
Published: Updated:

For 68 years the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has been tracking Santa’s route on Christmas Eve giving families their own eyes in the skies before visions of sugarplums dance in their heads.

365 days a year NORAD’s primary mission is preventing air attacks on North America, but on Christmas Eve it takes on the extra task of tracking Santa Claus as he travels around the world delivering presents to children.

NORAD does this by using satellites with infrared sensors to track the heat signature on Rudolph’s red nose.

As St. Nick enters North American air space, he gets an escort from fighter jets.

“They go up and just make sure the sleigh still looks good,” said Col. Elizabeth Mathias, NORAD Director of Public Affairs. “Santa gives them a wave. They rock their wings and he goes on his way.”

It all started in 1955 when a child called CONAD, now NORAD, asking to speak to Santa Claus because a local advertisement listed the operations center’s phone number instead of the intended department store’s.

The colonel who answered gave the child Santa’s current location and the rest is history.

Families can now call the NORAD Tracks Santa Center to find out when Santa will get to their city.

Major General Allan Pepin is a grandfather who is volunteering at the call center for the first time.

He said it’s an honor to bring families some extra Christmas cheer.

“We know this can bring smiles to people and there’s one thing you can not have enough of: a kid smiling, parents smiling, and bringing that family together for this special time,” said Maj. Gen. Pepin.

The NORAD Tracks Santa website is available in nine languages and features games, Christmas music and an interactive map that tracks Santa Claus and his reindeer.

For more information on Santa’s Christmas Eve journey call 1-877-HI-NORAD or visit

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