As the countdown to Christmas begins, volunteers at the North American Aerospace Defense Command have begun the agency's 61st annual "tracking" of Santa Claus' movements.
The NORAD Tracks Santa website, which launches this year on Thursday, Dec. 1., and is available in eight languages, purports to track Santa's yuletide journey as he delivers presents around the globe.
The air command authority has in the past said it uses the heat signature from Rudolph's nose to follow St. Nick over the continents and nations from Australia and Africa to South America and the United States.
The tradition began in December 1955, when former Col. Harry Shoup answered a call that came into the military agency, which was then called the Continental Air Defense Command.
A child asked Shoup if he was Santa Claus, as recalled in an LA Times story last year.
Shoup told the girl he was Santa, according to his recall, and she told him she would be leaving treats for him and his reindeer, the story goes.
When Shoup talked to the girl's mother, he learned that the call was because of a misprinted number in a Sears, Roebuck & Co. advertisement in the local newspaper that had invited kids to call Santa.
When kids continued to call the line, Shoup, who died in 2009, assigned people to answer the line and act like St. Nick, Shoup's daughter Pamela Farrell recounted to StoryCorps.
Since then, the tradition has grown to include multiple agencies and hundreds of volunteers who typically answer more than 100,000 phone calls on Christmas Eve. First Lady Michelle Obama has been among the NORAD volunteers in years past.
Santa fans can call 877-HI-NORAD or email firstname.lastname@example.org on Christmas Eve, where volunteers will check the big guy's journey on a big-screen computer monitor and pass along Santa's location. Updates are also posted on NORAD Santa's Facebook page and on Twitter @NoradSanta. The volunteers will keep answering questions through 2 a.m. on Christmas Day.
Last year, NORAD Tracks Santa had around 1.6 million Facebook likes and so far this year, has 161,000 followers on Twitter.
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or email@example.com; on Twitter: @seaclarridge. ___
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