All of us either have, or know, little pips. And, since it’s the beginning of December, those little pips spend at least part of their day with one eye on the sky, “just in case.” You never know when you might catch a glimpse of Santa commuting from one of the malls that he decided to spot-check (because everyone knows that, even though the Mall Santas are fake, they all report back to the Big Guy. And occasionally, he pops in to take a shift or two, just to keep his hand in the game).
Well, a couple of years ago, my then-Air-Traffic-Controller-Brother told me about a site that we’ve used every year since then to track the route of the Man in Red.
Here is NORAD Santa, a site maintained by the North American Aerospace Defense Command. NORAD are the folks who are in charge of monitoring all things man-made in space, including satellites, aircraft, and anything hostile that may be launched at us. Their mission is deadly serious, which makes it even cooler that they maintain NORAD Santa for kids during December.
NORAD Santa is, in a nutshell, a Santa Tracker. Right now, there’s nothing all that big going on at the site. The main page has a countdown going on (22 days, 11 hours, 16 minutes, 20 seconds, as I write this) until Santa’s liftoff to deliver toys around the world. They do have a page of games, called Countdown Village, which Josh really enjoys, a page of videos, prepared by troops overseas, as well as children at schools around the world, a page about Santa himself, and even a page where they address the question of the reality of Santa (they handle it well, I think… but parents might want to read it first, or avoid it altogether if that’s an issue). And for the techno-geeks among us, check out “How NORAD Tracks Santa.” Did you know that Rudolph’s nose is infrared? And how cool is it that Santa gets a fighter jet escort?
But the BIG deal of the site happens on Christmas Eve. That’s when the Big Countdown really begins. They track Mr. Claus from the moment he takes off, and feature”live” reports from NORAD Controllers, checking in on the progress of Santa’s Sleigh as he makes deliveries all over the world, starting in the Far East. I believe he starts either in China or Australia. They track him all the way into the U.S., if your little ones can stay up that late. There are videos posted at many of his stops – usually around 30 seconds long – about the place he’s stopping. Something about a particular landmark or the culture of that area, and then reassurance that Santa is safe, and on, or even ahead of, schedule.
I encourage you to go check it out. It’s good fun, and really helps the anticipation for the little ones on Christmas Eve. I remember when I was a kid, listening to the tracking reports on the radio (“he was just spotted flying past the Sears Tower, kids, you’d better get to bed!!” This around 8 PM). This is the same thing, updated for the Information Age.