Live Santa tracking from NORAD will kick off on 24th Decmeber, in what has become an annual event from the North American Aerospace Defence Command, borne out of a curious error from an advertising department.

At Christmas time in 1955 a Sears department store placed an advertisement in a Colorado Springs newspaper which told children that they could telephone Santa Claus and included a number for them to call.

However, the telephone number printed was incorrect and calls instead came through to Colorado Springs’ Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. Colonel Shoup, who was on duty that night, told his staff to give all children that called in a “current location” for Santa Claus.

A so began a tradition which continued when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) replaced CONAD in 1958. By then the media coverage had seen calls rocket, and hundreds of NORAD military and civilian volunteers manned phones at Peterson Airforce One Base giving details of Santas progress.

Today, NORAD relies on volunteers to make the program possible. Each volunteer handles about forty telephone calls per hour, and the team typically handles more than 12,000 e-mails and more than 70,000 telephone calls from more than two hundred countries and territories. Most of these contacts happen during the twenty- hours from 2 a.m. on December 24 until 3 a.m. MST on December 25.

The NORAD Santa-tracking website was launched in 1997, and includes several partners and sponsors. Since 2007 it has worked with Google Maps, however this year NORAD will team up with Microsoft Bing, as Google launch their own virtual Santa Space.

NORAD’s Santa tracker relies completely on corporate sponsorship and partner companies and Microsoft joins 51 other organizations who offer their services pro-bono to Norad for the agency’s more than 60-year-old tradition.

Visit the NORAD Santa Tracker, currently on countdown to 24th December.