Santa Is 16 Centuries Old: Things I’ve Learned from NORAD Tracks Santa App

NORAD Santa Tracker app home screen on an Android smartphone
NORAD’s Santa Tracker is available for download again!

Here are five things I learned from the magical NORAD Tracks Santa app to keep my nieces, nephews and neighborhood children entertained this holiday season, even if I don’t remember how many of them I should buy presents for:

  1. Santa’s big night out usually starts in the South Pacific, covers New Zealand and Australia, shoots up to Japan, over to Asia, across to Africa, then onto Western Europe, Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and finally Central and South America—unless the weather is bad, then things get complicated.
  2. Santa operates in his own time-space continuum. What may seem like 24 hours to us, is really days, weeks or months to him. If he operated on standard time like the rest of us, he’d need to limit his stay while delivering presents Christmas Eve to about three ten-thousandths of a second per home.
  3. Santa is 16 centuries old! One century is 100 years! Perhaps that last bit was news only to me.
  4. The technical specs of Santa’s sleigh are 75 cc in length, 40 cc in width and 55 cc in height. By the way, cc stands for candy canes.
  5. Santa actually needs to slow down for NORAD fighter pilots to escort him while in the U.S., since per technical specs listed in the app his sleigh is “faster than starlight.”
NORAD Santa Tracker Big Red One Satellite, from YouTube

Five things I learned about the North American Defense Command (NORAD) from the app that made my heart grow three sizes this day:

  1. More than 1,250 Canadian and American uniformed personnel and Defense Department civilians volunteer their time on Dec. 24 to answer thousands of phone calls and emails from around the world.
  2. The NORAD Tracks Santa program is made possible by these volunteers and through the support of corporate sponsors who bear nearly all of the costs.
  3. NORAD provides warning of impending missile and air attacks, safeguards the sovereignty of North America, and maintains airborne forces for defense against attack.
  4. NORAD tracks airplanes, missiles, space launches and anything else that flies in and around the North American continent 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  5. NORAD is a bi-national U.S. and Canadian military organization.
NORAD Santa Tracker volunteers, from YouTube

Few things bring the spirit of the holidays back each year like the NORAD Tracks Santa program. NORAD began the program in 1955 due to an advertising error by Sears Roebuck and Co. The ad misprinted the number for children to call Santa, which actually put the children through to the operations hotline of NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command. The unit commander at the time had his staff provide updates on Santa based on radar activity, and a tradition was born.

The app contains a host of information, including:

  • links to social media pages to join in the fun;
  • details on how to call the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center to speak to a staff member;
  • email for the operations center for Santa’s exact location;
  • radars, satellites, SantaCams and much more that show how NORAD tracks Santa;
  • Frequently Asked Questions section that gives a behind-the-scenes look into NORAD’s operation center.

You can download the app for your iPhone, Android or Windows phone.

NORAD Santa Tracker's Thin Ice game on an Android smartphone

Bonus: Play the app’s addictive “Thin Ice” game to help Santa’s elves deliver presents. The first few levels are easy enough as you get the hang of it, but remember the spirit of the holidays and watch your language as you continuously and helplessly let all the presents fall into the ice holes in later rounds. Or at least that’s my experience, you may fare better.

Happy Holidays!

_You can download this and other cool mobile government apps with just a few clicks from our USA.gov Federal Mobile Apps Directory. Federal agencies can get their apps in the directory by using the The Federal Mobile Products Registry_.

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