It is a tradition going back almost 60 years — NORAD is once again operating its Santa Tracker, where you can track Santa’s trip around the world in real time. It began due to a Sears Roebuck & Co typo, where an advertisement of theirs mis-printed the phone number for kids to call Santa, instead giving out a direct line to the Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD’s predecessor. The Air Force officers and enlisted did not have the heart to disappoint the children calling in for a status, so they began giving tracking updates.
Now in its 57th year of operation, the NORAD Santa tracker has had a major update this year. Now, the tracking map website has gone virtual-3D, enabling one to get a real feel for the amazing journey the jolly old elf takes every year.
The origin of Santa Claus himself is as amazing as the story behind the Santa Tracker. Santa Claus came to the new world in the guise of Saint Nicholas, an early Christian saint born in Patara. Saint Nicholas was generous, and was known for providing dowries for poor women in order to enable them to wed, as well as granting charity for widows and orphans. He was recognized as a Saint by 600 AD and is considered one of the founding fathers of the Christian faith in the Near East and Europe. He’s the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, pawnbrokers and students. History merged the figure of Saint Nicholas with older European folk-religious figures such as Odin, Nisse and Tomte, producing the current image we have of Santa Claus.
The joy of Christmas belongs to one and all, Christian and pagan alike. The figure of Santa Claus is a figure of celebration, of the joy of giving, a symbol for one and all. He represents the home, of hearth, and the family coming together – not just family of blood, but of the human family. NORAD, through a simple typographical error, has become part of this grand tradition. That is part of the joy and magic of the holidays.
Seasons Greetings and Happy Holidays, no matter which holiday you celebrate.