For 62nd year, NORAD takes calls from kids awaiting Santa; tracking website also now works with Alexa

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AP) — Hundreds of volunteers at an Air Force base in Colorado were answering questions on Sunday from eager children who wanted to know where Santa was on his Christmas Eve travels.

In this Dec. 24, 2014, file photo, NORAD and USNORTHCOM Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Charles D. Luckey joins other volunteers taking phone calls from children around the world asking where Santa is and when he will deliver presents to their homes, inside a phone-in center during the annual NORAD Tracks Santa Operation, at the North American Aerospace Defense Command, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Hundreds of volunteers are on the phones at the base, answering questions from eager kids who want to know where Santa is on his Christmas Eve travels | Associated Press photo by Brennan Linsley, File, St. George News

“NORAD Tracks Santa” got underway early Sunday morning at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was the 62nd year for the wildly popular program run by the U.S. and Canadian militaries.

Have your kids call NORAD

The toll-free telephone number for NORAD Tracks Santa is 877-Hi NORAD or 877-446-6723. About 1,500 volunteers answer the phones in shifts throughout Christmas Eve.

The website to watch Santa travel around the world is www.noradsanta.org, with updates offered in a number of languages in addition to English.

Updates are also posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

New this year, Amazon’s voice-activated computer service Alexa will be relaying NORAD Tracks Santa updates through the Echo device once the function has been enabled.

Original Sears ad from December 1955 showing the wrong phone number to reach the store Santa. The number was the private phone of the commander of CONAD, NORAD’s predecessor. | Photo in public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, St. George News

How it started

A Colorado Springs newspaper ran an ad in 1955 inviting children to call Santa but mistakenly ran the phone number for the hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, which was tasked with monitoring the skies for a possible nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. Children began calling and the CONAD staff happily played along.

The program is now run by CONAD’s successor, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, a U.S.-Canadian command that monitors the skies over both countries.

The numbers

Last year, NORAD Tracks Santa received nearly 154,200 phone calls and drew 10.7 million unique visitors to its website. It had 1.8 million Facebook followers, 382,000 YouTube views and 177,000 Twitter followers.

By midday in the eastern United States on Sunday, NORAD reported that Santa had delivered around 2 billion presents in Asia, including Christmas Island. NORAD tweeted reminders for “good boys and girls to get to bed” in various countries along the route.

Written by ASSOCIATED PRESS

This photo of the front page of The Greeley Tribune in Greeley, Colorado., from Dec. 23, 1955, shows an Associated Press story about the Continental Air Defense Command or CONAD tracking Santa Claus. The U.S. military’s Santa-tracking program began that year after a newspaper ad invited children to call Santa but inadvertently ran the phone number of CONAD’s hotline. Now in its 62nd year, the program is operated by CONAD’s successor, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, a U.S.-Canadian military command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. (Josh Polson/The Greeley Tribune via AP)

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