Online trackers offer educational fun and live coverage of Santa’s Christmas Eve flight
Christmas Eve is two days away and thanks to a number of online sites, children everywhere can track Santa’s progress around the globe from the moment he leaves the North Pole on December 24 to the early hours of Christmas morning.
In addition to tracking Jolly Old St Nick on the big night, two sites are already up and running, offering interactive and educational fun to keep kids – and the young at heart – busy in the run-up to Christmas.
Google’s site boasts a virtual Santa’s Village, complete with a countdown to Christmas at the top of the page. Every day, the village unlocks a new game or experience that invites visitors to learn a new skill or simply have fun.
According to Google: “From games that introduce basic concepts of coding to global holiday traditions, Google’s Santa Tracker encourages holiday learning experiences in a fun way.”
Other games on the site are purely for fun, such as the Santa Selfie game, which allows visitors to give Father Christmas a makeover.
This year Google has 3 different fun coding activities in its “Santa Tracker” for kids. https://t.co/afD7GgpKSn
The Tracker will go live on Christmas Eve, allowing fans worldwide to follow Santa’s progress on either the desktop web, mobile web (Android/iOS), Android app, Android TV app and Chromecast.
Meanwhile, Google’s Yuletide predecessor – the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) – is continuing the tradition it established in 1955.
For most of the year, NORAD surveys the skies over the United States and Canada and also monitors sea approaches for incursions by foreign forces.
Every Christmas, however, NORAD also puts its military sensors, radar and other technology to work to help children follow Santa’s route.
Its website, noradsanta.org, goes live every year in December, offering a number of activities to entertain and educate kids in addition to tracking Santa.
The tradition dates back to December 1955 when an advertising gimmick by Sears Roebuck & Co went awry. Sears placed an ad in a Colorado Springs newspaper promoting a “hotline” kids could call to talk to Santa.
One of the digits in the telephone number was off, however, and instead of reaching Santa, the number put excited kids through to the crisis line of the commander in chief’s office at NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defence Command (CONAD).
The man who answered the phone was director of operations Colonel Harry Shoup, who came to be known as “Santa Colonel.”
When a young caller asked if he was really Santa Claus, he decided to play along.
As more calls came in, Shoup grabbed an airman who was standing nearby and told him to get in on the act.
He had his staff check radar data to see if there was any indication of Santa making his way south from the North Pole, and indeed, there were signs of Santa. Children who called in were given an update on Santa’s position, and a tradition was born, according to NORAD’s Santa site.
In 1958, when NORAD was formed, it continued to offer a “Santa tracking” service to anyone who called in, especially on December 24.
The tradition evolved and grew to the point that the people who answered the calls included Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps personnel and hundreds of volunteers.
It was reported that in 2011 Michelle Obama was among those answering calls.