How the Whole “NORAD Tracks Santa” Thing Started

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or, well, don’t ever go online or watch the news), you probably know about how NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command — don’t ask, we know it doesn’t match). But I’ll bet you had no idea how or why NORAD started tracking the insanely improbable gift-giving route of our favorite jolly old elf, Santa Claus. Well, it all started with a Sears advertisement and a total misunderstanding.

Back in 1955, NORAD didn’t even exist. It was formerly known as CONAD, the Continental Air Defense Command, and was based in Colorado Springs. But on Christmas Eve in 1955, an ad ran in a local Colorado newspaper stating that there was a direct phone line to Santa Claus. Except that phone number directed excited Santa believers to … wait for it … CONAD. (Obviously, this was way before Conan O’Brien was a famous person, and there could be a hilarious genital-related joke in that.) It wasn’t supposed to be CONAD’s number, it was supposed to be the number for Sears. But alas — a typo directed callers to the international military operation. (CONAD covered both the United States and Canada.) And the man they reached was one Colonel Shoup, who was officially responsible for starting the tradition of tracking the exact location of Santa Claus as he traveled the world, breaking and entering the homes of families across the globe.

Three years after the infamous typo, CONAD became NORAD, and the agency now receives about 12,000 emails and 70,000 phone calls from kids asking, “Where is Santa exactly?” They now have an official web site to follow Santa’s journey, NORAD Tracks Santa. But modern-day technology has done us one better by giving us iPad, iPhone, and Droid apps to follow Santa. But if you’re not into the “spending every waking moment on your smartphone” thing, you can also track Santa on Google Earth.

Obviously, this is impossible. Santa would have to be the most amazing superhero ever to accomplish the task of delivering gifts to all the believing children of the world and eat their cookies. But for kicks? Definitely follow it for kicks.

(via How-To Geek, Norad Tracks Santa)

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