PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Lots of military secrets are hidden behind the gleaming walls of NORAD'S headquarters building, including this one: Just how do they get Santa's flight path onto their computer screens every Christmas Eve?
Tracking Santa's travels is a celebrated tradition at the North American Aerospace Command, and it unfolds Friday for the 55th year.
NORAD insiders drop hints about how they do it — "ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed digital cameras," radar, satellites and Canadian Forces fighter jets. They happily release a flurry of facts: They answered 74,000 phone calls and 3,500 e-mails from around the world last year, all asking for Santa's location.
But any inquiry into the technological particulars is met with a polite rebuff and a cryptic explanation involving the magic of Christmas.
It began in 1955 when a Colorado Springs newspaper ad invited kids to talk to Santa on a hotline. The phone number had a typo, and dozens of kids wound up dialing the Continental Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs, the predecessor to NORAD.
The officers on duty played along and began passing along reports on Santa's progress. It's now a cherished ritual at NORAD.
More than 13 million unique visitors went to the website last December. NORAD Tracks Santa has more than 470,000 "likes" on Facebook this year and more than 30,000 followers on Twitter.
Parents send emails thanking NORAD, as the volunteers encourage the children to go to bed early for Santa.:lol: