The North American Aerospace Defense Command’s (NORAD) special duty dates back to 1955. According to the legend, a child that was trying to reach Santa’s hotline, created by the chain of department stores Sears, misdialed the number and instead called Colonel Harry Shoup, on duty that night at the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), the ancestor of NORAD. Shoup, who would be known from that moment as the Santa Colonel, saw an opportunity to bring some public recognition to their year-round mission. As a reminder, CONAD was founded during the Cold War with the duty to continuously monitor the airspace of the United States for any air or space attack.

Harry Shoup, the "Santa Colonel" (Credit: NORAD)

Just before Christmas of 1955, a press release was sent to Associated Press, stating: “CONAD, Army, Navy and Marine Air Forces will continue to track and guard Santa and his sleigh on his trip to and from the U.S. against possible attack from those who do not believe in Christmas.”

From that moment, a special hotline was created for children eager to know if the gift delivery is going well. In 1958, when NORAD took over as a bi-national organization in charge of defending both the United States and Canada, it also inherited the seasonal duty now branded “NORAD Tracks Santa”. 

Years went by and innovations made Santa increasingly trackable, as the stealth properties of his sleigh are somewhat questionable. And just like Saint Nick never missed a delivery, NORAD’s hotline has always been on duty for the past 65 years.

From December 24, 2020, children ‒ and adults ‒ will be able to access a special website (www.noradsanta.org) to see Mr. Claus prepare for his journey thanks to special “NORAD’s Santa Cams”. And on the big night, trackers from around the world will be able to know of Santa’s whereabouts through an interactive map or NORAD’s hotline. The website is available in eight languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Chinese.