Santa's journey tracked as Christmas Day dawns across the world
Defence chiefs in North America insist that Santa “calls all the shots” as they continued the tradition of following his journey around the world.
Norad, the joint US-Canadian military operation that for 66 years has been tracking St Nicholas on his global mission, has confirmed the munificent courier and his reindeer-powered sleigh laden with presents of all shapes and sizes has begun the annual circumnavigation to bring a welcome dose of joy to deserving children for the second time in the pandemic era.
The Colorado-based North American Aerospace Defence Command (Norad) provides real-time updates on Santa’s progress on December 24, with the Santa Tracker letting families watch Father Christmas in 3D as he transits the South Pacific, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.
From deep inside Norad headquarters, dozens of volunteers field an unrelenting wave of phone calls while it can be watched by visiting https://www.noradsanta.org, check out #NORADTracksSanta and @NoradSanta on Twitter, or use the associated apps.
Even before Friday’s takeoff, the Norad webpage had been visited more than three million times, Norad spokesman Preston Schlachter said.
“Every household, every country is having to deal with the impact of this pandemic.
“Santa Claus is an icon, and he is a source of joy for a lot of people,” Mr Schlachter said.
For those worried about Santa’s safety, or their own, the bearded man will likely be wearing a mask at each stop, and of course he is wearing gloves, Mr Schlachter noted.
For the technically inclined, Norad’s website offers more data on the voyage – weight of gifts at takeoff: 60,000 tons, or 54,600 metric tons; sleigh propulsion: nine RP, or reindeer power.
Like any good Christmas tale, the programme’s origin has been told for generations.
In 1955, Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup, the on-duty commander one night at Norad’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defence Command, answered a call from a child who dialled a number that was misprinted in an ad in a newspaper, thinking she was calling Santa.
Col Shoup “answered the call, thought it was a prank at first, but then realised what had happened and assured the child that he was Santa, and thus started the tradition that we are celebrating now 66 years later”, Mr Schlachter said.
Norad’s mission is to watch the skies above North America for any potential threats.
Come early Christmas Eve, the Santa operation begins when a cluster of radar stations in northern Canada and Alaska pick up an infrared signature emanating from Rudolph’s nose.
Norad’s array of geostationary satellites above the Earth monitor the journey.
It is all shown on large, “unclassified” display screens in a festively decorated command post at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs.
Masked volunteers sit at tables equipped with telephones, garland, miniature Christmas trees, plenty of caffeine-laden candy and coffee – and hand sanitiser.
“We Have the Watch,” is Norad’s military-mission motto.
And when it comes to Santa, Norad adds: “Santa calls the shots.
“We just track him.”