Summary:

For 55 years now, NORAD has been updating little girls and boys about Santa Claus’s progress around the world on Christmas Eve. The operation has been upgraded since its early days, thanks to corporate sponsorship, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Google Earth.

norad santa

Many people get Christmas Eve off from work, but that doesn’t include Santa Claus — and it also doesn’t include the hundreds of volunteers who spend the day using some of the world’s most advanced military technology to track his movements. (Note: For the purposes of this article, let’s just all agree that Santa Claus is real and delivers presents to good girls and boys the night before Christmas.)

For the 24 hours before Christmas, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (otherwise known as NORAD, previously known as CONAD) takes on the job of tracking Santa’s progress, a tradition that began in 1955 when, according to the official NORAD Santa site:

…a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief’s operations “hotline.” The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born.

So while back then, the only way kids had of getting updates on Santa’s progress was to phone up NORAD, NORAD has since substantially upgraded the operation for the social media age. For the 24 hours of Christmas Eve, NORAD is planning the following initiatives:

  • The @NORADSanta Twitter feed provides up-to-the-minute updates on Santa’s progress around the globe.
  • A Flickr stream offers up images from NORAD Santa HQ.
  • The official NORAD Tracks Santa Facebook account, which even a few days before Christmas Eve was actively updating users on NORAD activities leading up to the big day.
  • The Google Earth app, on Christmas Eve only, will have Santa-tracking abilities.
  • YouTube as well as the military-oriented TroopTube will both be hosting videos capturing Santa’s progress — below is a video compiling some of the highlights from 2009′s journey.

Despite providing a valuable public service, NORAD Tracks Santa is not financed by taxpayer dollars, instead relying on corporate sponsorship from companies such as Google and Verizon. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind if my tax dollars were being spent on something like this. Peace on earth, good will towards men, and all that.

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