Instead of spending Christmas Eve at home, 1,250 Canadian and U.S. military personnel and Defense Department civilians spent the night answering calls from children around the world calling in to the North American Aerospace Command Santa Tracker Headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The Santa Tracker operation dates to 1955, when a newspaper incorrectly listed the phone number for the Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD's predecessor, as Santa’s number -- an accidental start to a tradition that now includes a website in eight languages, mobile phone apps, a Facebook page with 1.2 million fans and a Twitter feed with 104,000 followers.
The AP reported that NORAD received a record number of phone calls this year -- 110,000 -- topping last year’s record of 107,000 calls.
First Lady Michelle Obama fielded Santa calls for NORAD from her Hawaii vacation digs for the third year in a row, which she described as a “a wonderful holiday tradition, and I'm always so thrilled to be a part of it. I love hearing the excitement and anticipation in the children's voices as they learn Santa's location -- that's what brings the magic of this night to life for all of us.”
NORAD tracks Santa with radar and satellites which can detect the infrared signature of Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer’s nose. When Santa enters North American airspace, Canadian CF-18 fighters escort him, the sleigh and reindeer, handing over the mission at the border to U.S. F-15, F-16 and F-22 aircraft.
NORAD reported Santa delivered 7,060,919,100 presents this year.