In 1955 a local store placed an ad in the newspaper in an effort to generate Christmas sales. The ad encouraged kids to call Santa directly and provided a phone number where he could be reached. In an odd twist the number printed had a typo so instead of calling Santa, children called the crew commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Operations Center. The commander played along and in 1958 NORAD made tracking Santa an official thing.
Fast forward 58 years and that thing has become a beloved tradition complete with 21st technology. NORAD has setup a website, social media channels, and an app all designed to give the public the latest intel on Santa's progress. And the public loves it. In 2012 the website had 22.3 million visitors from around the world. The Facebook page had 1.2 million followers and 25 million people followed Santa's progress in real time.
For the more traditional at heart, NORAD still takes phone calls. Volunteers hear from hundreds of thousands of kids eager for news on Santa's whereabouts. When kids call in, they're told to be in bed between 10:00 and midnight to get their presents. NORAD spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Bill Lewis says, "A lot of times when we tell the children what time it is they say, 'That's really close to now!' and you'll hear the phone just drop as they run off to bed."
There's still time to get in on the fun. Check out the website or download the app.