A Typo Leads to a Tradition

Did you know that you can track Santa every December 24th? NORAD uses radar to track down Santa as he makes his way delivering presents around the world. (https://www.noradsanta.org/)

Every year on Christmas Eve, NORAD watches for an unidentified aircraft—a sleigh and reindeer—with radar! Well, how did this tradition begin? It all goes back to a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper advertisement.

 The Santa Tracker tradition started with this Sears ad, which instructed children to call Santa on what turned out to be a secret military hotline. Kids today can call 1-877 HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) to talk to NORAD staff about Santa's exact location.

The Santa Tracker tradition started with this Sears ad, which instructed children to call Santa on what turned out to be a secret military hotline. Kids today can call 1-877 HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) to talk to NORAD staff about Santa's exact location.

In 1955, Sears released an ad that read “Hey Kiddies, call me direct on my private telephone!” and gave a phone number. To the great surprise of Col. Harry Shoup, commanding officer at the Continental Air Defense Command (NORAD’s predecessor), the printed number went to the secret command hotline on his desk. Initially believing the little voice on the other end to be a prankster, Shoup got irritated, but realised when the little voice began crying that he was talking to a young child. One call after another came in and Shoup ended up assigning airmen to take the calls, posing as Santa Claus. The base had a large, glass board with the United States and Canada on it, on which they would track aircraft. On Christmas Eve that year, Shoup found that someone had drawn a sleigh with reindeer on the board, and an idea struck him. He called a local radio station, identified himself as the commander at the Air Defense Command centre and announced that they were tracking Santa. Over the course of the evening, radio stations would call in for an update on Santa’s whereabouts and a tradition was born.

NORAD was created during the Cold War to defend the North American continent from airborne attack. Even after the end of the Cold War, NORAD still keeps a vigilant eye on the skies over and surrounding North America, with interceptors on alert to respond to unidentified aircraft.

The Secrets of Radar Museum and 427 (London) Wing: the Spirit of Fight and Aviation Museum—located side by side at 2155 Crumlin Side Road—tell the stories of the Cold War veterans, who have direct experience with air surveillance. This would not have been possible without the expertise of thousands of men and women serving on and developing radar technology during the Second World War. Thanks to these veterans, the Santa tracking technology was developed!

SORM is open regular hours, 10AM-4PM Thursday through Saturday, even during the holidays.