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NORAD tracking Santa Claus' journey around the world

The North American Aerospace Defense Command is celebrating its annual tradition of providing updates on the location of Santa Claus for the 68th year. Photo courtesy of NORAD Tracks Santa/Facebook
The North American Aerospace Defense Command is celebrating its annual tradition of providing updates on the location of Santa Claus for the 68th year. Photo courtesy of NORAD Tracks Santa/Facebook

Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The North American Aerospace Defense Command is celebrating its annual tradition of providing updates on the location of Santa Claus for the 68th year.

NORAD, which is responsible for airspace security over the United States and Canada, began the tradition of a Santa-tracking hotline in 1955 when a young child trying to call Santa accidentally dialed an unlisted phone number, reaching a U.S. Air Force colonel instead.

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In the 68 years since, the festive tradition has morphed into a website, complete with 3D graphics of Papá Noel and his reindeer helpers. Tracking is also available on mobile apps.

Each year, the NORAD Tracks Santa website receives several million unique visitors from more than 200 countries and territories around the world. But the hotline remains in place. Volunteers typically answer more than 130,000 calls from children across the globe.

This year, the call center has been set up in a new location in Hangar 123 at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado. The mission operated out of Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station until 2006.

"Being in Hangar 123 roots the program squarely in the operational context that it came from," said NTS program manager 1st Lt. Sean Carter in a statement.

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"Over the years, this particular program has experienced several different iterations, sometimes leaning more into the festivities of the holiday season, other times celebrating the whimsy. Ultimately, tracking Santa is a military operation, and having Hangar 123 as the new home to the call center couldn't be more appropriate."

In 2021, NORAD was still limiting the number of volunteers because of the coronavirus pandemic. But the new location appears to indicate an increase again in the number of volunteers helping track Santa.

Officials said Hangar 123 was one of two potential locations for the new call center and was selected because of the amount of space inside and available parking for volunteers and staff.

This year, tracking began around 4 a.m. EST. As of the time of publication, he was last seen over Nagasaki, Japan, and making his way to Okinawa with more than a billion gifts delivered.

The website also offers several games, Christmas music and merchandise for sale to celebrate the annual tradition.

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