From 2:01 a.m. EST, videos will show Kris Kringle preparing for his busiest night of the year. Once he takes to the skies in his sleigh, NORAD’s Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google Plus and YouTube accounts will document his route, as will the various “NORAD Tracks Santa” apps, Windows Phone’s Cortana and OnStar.
From 6 a.m. EST, hundreds of volunteer operators at NORAD’s Peterson Air Force Base HQ in Colorado Springs, Colorado, will also reveal Santa’s location to curious callers by answering a toll-free 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) number and replying to emails sent to email@example.com.
It’s the 61st year in a row that children have been able to call up the center, whose principal mission is monitoring air threats against the U.S. and Canada, in order to check on Santa’s progress.
And the number of youngsters calling is still growing. “Last year was a good year for us,” command spokesman Preston Schlachter told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “We had more than 141,000 phone calls.”
According to NORAD, the tradition began in 1955 when a business misprinted the telephone number advertising a Santa hotline and instead directed kids to the agency’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center.
Rather than just ring off, however, good-natured staffers ended up taking the calls and the festive custom has continued ever since.