Tracking Santa on
the Holiday's Most Popular Site
Typo In 1955
Newspaper Ad Results in Annual Holiday Phenomenon - Now On The Web
By Hans Petersen
mom and dad were kids, they would stare in fixed suspense at the
TV screen while the local newscaster would relay the "bulletins
just in" on the progress of Santa Claus as he made his way
south from the North Pole.
Eve, kids will be at their computer screens, for the fourth year,
tracking Santa in real
time thanks to the United States Air Force and the North American
Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
the world can tune into NORAD's 44th Annual Santa track this Christmas
Eve by surfing the web or picking up the phone. Children who do
not have access to the Internet can call Cheyenne Mountain for a
personal Santa update at (719) 474-3980 from 4 p.m. - midnight MST.
six-language, multimedia website will track Santa on Christmas Eve
using digital animation, satellite/cockpit images and audio reports
from Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado Springs -- NORAD's Command Center.
New images and reports are posted every hour. The site is available
in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Brazilian Portuguese.
has a variety of high-tech features and tackles numerous critically
important aspects of Santa Claus -- including calculations of cookie
and milk consumption, how he gets around the world so quickly and
how he gets down the chimney.
How It Got
The Santa tracking
tradition started in 1955 by pure accident after a local newspaper
ran an ad for a Department Store Santa Hotline. The
ad included a special phone number which turned out to be the Operations
Hotline to Continental Air Defense Command (NORADs predecessor).
say, the military personnel on duty were very surprised to hear
six-year-olds on the Operations hotline. The senior officer on duty
at the time was Colonel Harry Shoup (who still resides in Colorado
Springs). Col. Shoup took the first call and quickly figured out
what had happened. The kids asked if they could speak to Santa.
Col. Shoup said he was helping Santa and told them he could see
him on the Radar screens heading south from the North Pole.
heard of the calls and reported the story locally. The next year,
calls came flooding in to Continental Air Defense Command from children
who wanted to know where Santa was. A tradition was born - a tradition
NORAD assumed in 1957. The program expanded gradually over the years
until it hit the Internet in 1997. Hits - or Christmas Eve attempts
to log on - numbered many, many millions in years since tracking
Santa went online.
Website a Worldwide
the Santa Claus tracking website proved to be a huge success over
the Christmas holidays with more than 28 million hits registered
on the main site. Additionally, America Online (15 million
users) and several other large Internet service providers carried
the site on their internal servers, separate from the NORAD main
site. With this additional Internet traffic, the website was likely
the worlds most popular site on Christmas Eve and Christmas
Day that year and the next.
To date, the
"NORAD Tracks Santa" website has been awarded more than
45 international Internet awards for website excellence. In addition
to several American awards such as the USA Today Hotsite
award and ABC News.Com Site of the Week, awards have been received
from Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, France, New Zealand, the United
Kingdom and Japan. The worldwide recognition includes the Medaille
dOr Award from France and the Web Academy Award from Britain
-- two of the Internets most highly prized awards.
all over the world feature NORADs website and Santa tracking
program. In addition to extensive media coverage in North America,
news outlets throughout Europe, Japan and in countries such as Malaysia,
Colombia, New Zealand and Poland highlight the site.
More than 1,200
unsolicited emails and letters were received from around the world
thanking NORAD for its Santa tracking efforts and standing watch
over North America.
volunteers in Cheyenne Mountain responded to more than 7,000 phone
calls from children around the world on Christmas Eve.
was designed by Analytical Graphics Inc., who created the site and
all supporting imagery, and is hosted by IBM. In addition, Globelink
Services International coordinated the extensive translation required
for the website. All the organizations and volunteers who help make
this global NORAD Christmas project possible do so at no cost to
For More Information
Jamie Robertson at (719) 554-5816 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
About the Author
is a writer/editor at the Health Care Financing Administration in
Washington D.C. Currently writing for AccessAmerica
E-Gov E-Zine, he can be reached at HPetersen@HCFA.gov.