How to keep track of Santa’s movements this Christmas

NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, is nowadays seen as the most trusted source of information for tracking Santa’s movements on Christmas eve…but I wonder how many of you know the heart-warming tale behind how this tradition began?

Nowadays, most parents among us will turn to our nearest tablet or mobile app for Santa’s location data, but back in 1955, the telephone and newspaper were the only methods available. NORAD’s involvement began by accident, when US department store Sears published a newspaper ad promising children the chance to call Santa on Christmas Eve. But instead of printing the number for Father Christmas, the ad mistakenly gave the direct number for the Commander-in-Chief of Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), the predecessor to NORAD. So that night, calls from extremely excited children began to roll into a hotline normally reserved for calls from the Pentagon and high-level military commanders! But not wanting to disappoint, CONAD assigned its staff to track the progress of Santa and his reindeers, and children were given the updates they hoped for. Hence the tradition was born!

If you’re a parent, stepping outside on Christmas Eve to see the bright lights of Santa’s sleigh zooming across the sky (not to be confused with the festive flyover by the International Space Station!), is a truly magical thing. But if your children are keen on observing Santa’s progress in more detail, here are a few ways we recommend…

NORAD Santa Tracker

NORAD and Google used to work together to keep track of Santa, but in 2012 they decided to go their separate ways and Microsoft now helps NORAD keep tabs on the big guy. This year NORAD celebrates its 60th year of Santa tracking!

NORADsanta.org goes live on 1 December 2015, and as in previous years, promises to be full of festive games and videos released on a daily basis in the run up to Christmas.

But probably the bit we all want the most is the Bing-powered map, which on Christmas Eve will offer you a 3D view of where Santa is currently flying. This is probably best viewed on a web browser, although apps for Windows Phone, iOS and Android will also be available. At the bottom of the map you can also see an estimate of the number of gifts delivered, where Santa was last seen and where he’s heading to. You can also click and drag with your mouse to rotate the view, as well as use buttons in the top right corner to zoom in and out.

You can also switch to a 2D view of the map to see more clearly the places that Santa has visited already. Don’t worry if your home town isn’t listed, as it would become too crowded to put everywhere on there. He’s definitely coming! Camera icons show places where he’s been spotted on NORAD’s Santa Cam, and if you click on them you can see the video footage of Santa flying through famous landmarks and cities around the world.

Google’s Santa Tracking

You might notice that Google’s Santa Tracker is on a slightly different schedule to NORAD’s, possibly due to its positioning from the North Pole, but it’s nothing to worry about.

Google Maps shows Santa’s current location and plots the journey he’s taking, while also letting you know his distance from you, if you opt to let Google know your location. Google’s map already shows places Santa’s been to by default, and you can click on locations to access to some animated videos and find out facts about the area.

As an added extra, Google offers a Chrome extension to keep Santa updates just a click away, and to add a few nice Christmas-themed HTML5 tricks to any web page you’re viewing over the festive period.

As a funny aside, if you type “where is Santa?” into Google right now, the Quick Answers Box offers NORAD’s Santa Tracker. It’s nice to see Google isn’t getting too competitive about things…yet!

Social Santa

If you’d prefer to track Santa via social media, did you know that he’s on Facebook and Twitter too? He promises to always keep up with technology trends, so you never know, this year he may be relying on wearable devices to keep track of his deliveries, and how his reindeers are faring. A world-class GPS system is also rumoured to be attached to his sleigh this year…