NORAD Tracks Santa is back and ready to take your calls

If you or your children are curious where ol' St. Nick is on Christmas Eve, NORAD Tracks Santa is fully staffed and eagerly waiting for your call.

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

While millions of people around the world spend Christmas Eve with their friends and families, a group of 1,500 volunteers at NORAD (The North American Aerospace Defense Command) spend the day answering calls from curious children and their parents, ready to answer the biggest question of the day: Where is Santa?

NORAD is tracking Santa once again this year using the same resources, teams, and technology that is used to track anything and everything that flies across the sky in North America.

It's a tradition that started in 1955 when a misprinted Sears advertisement listed the phone number for the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center, encouraging children to call and talk to Santa. Colonel Harry Shoup, who was was on duty that night, answered the phone and realized the error. Shoup promised the child he was indeed Santa and that he was on his way to their home. Eventually, the Colonel assigned someone to staff the phone and continue to answer calls.

CONAD eventually became NORAD, and the tradition has continued. Volunteers work in two-hour shifts, fielding 140,000 calls in total, coming in from countless countries and varying languages.

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Cesium

On Monday, I spent about an hour inside the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center and it was inspiring to see the amount of work that's put into ensuring children have the latest information on Christmas Eve as Santa makes his journey. Each station has a playbook with various stats and information about Santa and his sleigh. For example, did you know the sleigh weighs 60,000 tons at takeoff? Or that Santa Claus weighs 260 pounds at the start of his flight, but by the time he lands he weighs 1,260 pounds?

Not only will NORAD have volunteers ready to answer phone calls, but Cesium's 3D mapping technology is being used again this year to plot Santa's location on a map, and for the first time, the 3D app is optimized for mobile devices. So instead of having to field questions about Santa's whereabouts all day and into the night, you can install the app on a child's device and they can watch as Santa makes his journey closer to their home.

Cesium has a more technical explanation of how their technology is used posted on its website if you want to get into the finer details.

You can call NORAD at 1-877-HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) starting at 6 a.m. ET and talk to a volunteer who will tell you Santa's current location, and answer any questions. Or you can send an email to noradtrackssanta@outlook.com with your questions or to ask for updates. You can also use the NORAD Tracks Santa website https://www.noradsanta.org/ or the app on your iPhone or Android phone, which will show you Santa's current location in a new 3D view for mobile devices.