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How the North American Aerospace Defense Command got the job of tracking Santa

At the time of publication, Santa is en route to Hiroshima, Japan.

We can thank the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) for that privileged information. For more than 60 years, the joint U.S.-Canadian organization — typically tasked with protecting North American airspace — has reported Santa's whereabouts to eager, sleepless children. Not even a government shutdown can prevent Santa's unlikely helpers from offering minute-by-minute updates on Rudolph and company's progress.

Some, however, believe "it's about time that we decoupled St. Nick from the world's most powerful military," as Hayes Brown writes for MSNBC. After all, how did the U.S. military get into the Santa-tracking business in the first place?

As legend would have it, it's all thanks to a 1955 newspaper typo:

"Hey Kiddies!" the ad read. "Call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time day or night." The ad listed Santa's direct line, but the number in the copy was off by a digit. Instead of connecting to the special line [Sears Roebuck] set up with a Santa impersonator, kids wound up calling a secret air defense emergency number. … [U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup] pulled a few airmen aside and gave them a special assignment. They would answer the phone and give callers — barring the Pentagon, we assume — Santa's current location as they "tracked" him on their radar. From that night on, tracking Santa became a yearly tradition, carried on by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) when it replaced CONAD in 1958. [Mental Floss]

Read the whole story here, and track Santa on NORAD's page, with Amazon Alexa and OnStar, with the NORAD Santa tracking app on the Apple Store and Google Play Store — or the old-fashion way, by calling (877) HI-NORAD.