One of my favorite contemporary Christmas celebrations, NORAD Tracks Santa, is now under way, with radar, satellites, Santa Cams and fighter jets being employed to track the progress of that 'right jolly old elf.'
NORAD is "the bi-national U.S.-Canadian military organization responsible for the aerospace and maritime defense of the United States and Canada. NORAD, created by a 1958 agreement between Canada and the United States, provides advanced warning of impending missile and air attack against its member nations, safeguards the air sovereignty of North America, and maintains airborne forces for defense against attack."
... and for monitoring the progress of a reindeer-powered sleigh as it pursues impossible flight plans, at unheard-of speeds.
According to this page on NORADS's Santa website, "the tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief's operations 'hotline.' The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born."
To listen to Colonel Shoup talk about the experience, click here