Santa Claus is comin’ to town. Yes, your child’s photo with him may not have gone as planned and you probably forgot to move the Elf one (or 20?) times this month. But with mere hours left of Christmas 2012, NORAD Tracks Santa (aka the coolest holiday tradition ever) is here to help you make your child's holiday magical.
NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) first got into the Santa business 57 years ago, thanks to a happy accident. On December 23, 1955, Sears Roebuck & Co. printed an advertisement with a portrait of Santa that read “Hey Kiddies, call me direct on my telephone...” with the wrong phone number. Instead of the store, children started calling CONAD (the Continental Air Defense Command which later became NORAD). Colonel Harry Shoup, who was in charge at the time, went far beyond being a good sport; he had his staff check their radar to provide updates on Santa’s location, and, as the official NORAD website says, “a tradition was born.”
Over the years, trackers at NORAD continued to take phone calls from anxious kids on New Year’s Eve, wanting to know where Santa was. They relied on radar, satellites and fighter jets (!) to locate Santa's sleigh. Then, in 1998, NORAD debuted a Santa Cam Network -- “ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed digital cameras that are pre-positioned at many locations around the world… [to] capture images and videos of Santa and his reindeer as they make their journey around the world.” In other words, NORAD went online -- and became even more fun and popular.
Today, NORAD will be tracking Santa on their site and via the NORAD app with interactive maps and constantly updated videos. (Click here to find out where Santa is now.) While you wait for him to get close to your hometown, explore Santa’s village to play holiday versions of classic games like tic-tac-toe (elves are x’s, snowmen are o’s) or head over to Facebook to hang out with the Santa tracking community on the NORAD Tracks Santa page, which has over 1.1 million fans. And yes, if you want your kids to have an old school Christmas, it's still possible to get Santa's location by phone -- call 1-877-HI-NORAD or 1-877-446-6723 to speak to a real-life tracker.
Clearly, NORAD is the granddaddy of trackers, but there are even more, entertaining options for kids in search of Santa on December 24. From personalized phone calls and videos to a hilarious photo-maker, here are more awesome Christmas Eve activities to do with your family.