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Monday 30 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Screengrab via NORAD tracks Santa
# Crossed lines
How a wrong number led to the NORAD Santa-tracker
Volunteers will answer 70,000 calls and 12,000 emails today. All because a department store got a number wrong.

ALL DAY TODAY excited children, and more than a few adults, will check on the status of Santa.

Services across the world promise to track the man in red on his flight from the North Pole.

The most well-known is the NORAD Santa-Tracker, which every year sees the North American Aerospace Defense Command, a brand of the federal US government, track the presents delivered by Saint Nick.

But why is an agency assigned to protect US airspace bothering with a man in a red suit who brings toys to kids?

It all started with a wrong number.


In 1955, US Department store Sears printed a Christmas Eve ad in a Colorado Springs newspaper for a hotline that allowed children to talk to Santa.

image(Wikimedia Commons/NORAD)

Except, they printed the number wrong, mistakenly giving out the number for what was then a regional base for CONAD, the precursor to NORAD.

At CONAD, Colonel Harry Shoup was handed the phone after a young girl had asked a number of times for Santa. As the young girl became more and more upset, Shoup began to play along.

As more calls came in, Shoup told his staff to provide a location for Santa’s sleigh.

From then, a tradition was born and a host of media used.

In 1997, the website was launched, bringing the largely-US tradition to the world.

The programme is run by volunteers who, on Christmas Eve alone, answer 12,000 emails and more than 70,000 telephone calls from more than two hundred countries and territories.

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