In Depth

How to follow Santa Claus’ journey on Christmas Eve

How trying to phone Father Christmas led US military to launch its festive tracker

Children will once again be able to monitor Father Christmas’s progress this year thanks to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) festive tracker.

The interactive tool has been around for more than 60 years and allows users to follow Santa on his journey across the globe. 

General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of Norad and US Northern Command, said: “In addition to our day-to-day mission of defending North America, we are proud to carry on the tradition of tracking Santa as he travels along his yuletide flight path.”

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What is the Norad festive tracker?

Norad “defends the airspace of America and Canada, and it was merely an accident that its now famous tracker was created”, says Kent Live.

The news website explains that a 1955 advert showing a telephone number for children to call Santa misprinted that number.

“Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to Norad. The director of operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole,” the site adds.

Time magazine reports that the tracker goes live on 1 December every year, “spending the weeks leading up to Christmas educating children about geography”.

General O’Shaughnessy said: “In addition to our day-to-day mission of defending North America, we are proud to carry on the tradition of tracking Santa as he travels along his yuletide flight path, says the Evening Standard.

“The same radars, satellites and interceptors employed on December 24 are used year-round to defend Canadian and American airspace from threats.”

How far does Father Christmas fly?

The Telegraph reports that “every year on Christmas Eve, Santa sets off on his sleigh from Lapland with his trusty reindeer, travelling an estimated 510,000,000km – approximately 1,800 miles per second.

“Christmas Eve is a busy time for Father Christmas as he needs to visit 390,000 homes per minute – or 6,424 per second,” the paper adds.

How does Santa differ around the world?

“While Britons often picture Father Christmas to be a jolly character with a white beard, wearing a red suit and big black boots, other countries around the world visualise the beloved festive figure differently,” the Telegraph says.

It notes that in Belgium and the Netherlands, Santa is known as “Sinterklaas”, who wears a bishop’s alb and cape with a ruby ring and travels on a white horse, while in Russia, “Grandfather Frost” arrives on New Year’s Eve to deliver gifts.

Elsewhere, in France, “Pere Noel” rides a donkey called “Gui”, while in Finland, “Joulupukki” knocks on children’s doors on Christmas Eve to ask if they have behaved themselves.

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