Tracking Santa across the skies is getting easier and more mobile, but there are still just two reliable options online.
Both sites offer up a variety of online activities — from educational pieces and games to a countdown to when Santa kicks off his journey as well as ways to connect with Santa’s representatives.
NORAD (North American Air Defense Command) is the leader in following Santa, having done so since the first-ever ‘sighting’ of the big sleigh heading out from the North Pole came in 1948 — done partly to mention the U.S. Air Force’s newest radar technology in the north to the American public.
Since then, the one-time event has become an intricate symphony using the latest in technology and communications.
The regular ‘report’ began in 1955 as a chance to gain some public notoriety for the renamed air defense command, following what is believed to be a child calling the wrong number to reach Santa. That gave someone an idea a few weeks later to note to the public they were tracking Santa, after a controller used a Santa picture to represent an unidentified aircraft.
For the following year, the air defense command was told that media were waiting for a Santa progress update, spawning an annual tradition that now spans the globe.
Beginning in 1958, the reports got more elaborate over the years as NORAD took over — ranging from Royal Canadian Air Force planes stating “an obviously friendly sleigh” was spotted in the sky to reports noting an S. Claus was assisted during an emergency sleigh landing.
Communication upgrades moved to a public phone number (still operational at 1-800-HI-NORAD) in 1981 for progress updates. However, the site answers questions through email (firstname.lastname@example.org), its contact page and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/noradsanta) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/NoradSanta).
NORAD also has its own YouTube and Instagram accounts with photos and videos, with mobile apps so people can receive updates and go interactive on the site.
The world’s largest search engine got into tracking in 2004, using its widely used map feature in order to follow Santa either on a desktop or through its mobile apps.
Google’s site includes a number of interesting online and interactive games, holiday music, the opportunity to create art, take part in some more educational activities as well as learn some computer skills.