Yes, there is a Santa Claus. And no, COVID-19 won’t stop it
December 24, 20210
Rest assured, children of all ages: Santa Claus is coming this Christmas Eve, and a second party with COVID-19 won’t stop him.
This is the word of the joint US-Canadian military operation which for 66 years has followed Jolly Old St. Nicholas on his global mission and has assured us all, first by land line and more recently by iPhone, Android, OnStar, Facebook, YouTube and more, he’s on the way with a sled stuffed with toys and a healthy dose of joy.
In what has become its own hugely popular tradition, Colorado-based North American Aerospace Defense Command is providing real-time updates on Santa’s progress on December 24, from 4 a.m. to midnight MST. NORAD’s Santa Tracker allows families to watch Santa Claus in 3D as he crosses the South Pacific, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.
From deep within NORAD headquarters, dozens of volunteers send an endless wave of phone calls to 1-877-HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723). They and other volunteers working offsite due to coronavirus distancing protocols will answer questions like “When will he come to my house?” What kind of cookies does he like? NORAD program director and spokesperson Preston Schlachter said.
Want to watch? Visit www.noradsanta.org, check out #NORADTracksSanta and @NoradSanta on Twitter, or use the related apps. You can also send an email [email protected] for the last one.
Even before takeoff on Friday, NORAD’s webpage had been visited more than 3 million times, Schlachter said.
“Every household, every country must face the impact of this pandemic. Santa Claus is an icon and a source of joy for many people, ”Schlachter said.
For those concerned about the safety of Santa Claus – or theirs – the bearded man will likely wear a mask at every stop, and of course, he wears gloves, Schlachter noted. For technical enthusiasts, the NORAD website offers more information on the trip (Weight of gifts at take-off: 60,000 tonnes, or 54,600 metric tonnes; sled propulsion: nine RP, or reindeer power).
Like any good Christmas story, the origin of the program has been told for generations.
In 1955, Air Force Col. Harry Shoup — the one night duty commander to NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command — answered a call from a child who had dialed a number that was incorrectly printed in an advertisement in a newspaper, thinking she was calling Santa Claus.
Shoup “answered the call, thought it was a prank at first, but then realized what had happened and assured the child that he was Santa Claus, and so called the tradition we are now celebrating 66 years later, ”Schlachter said.
NORAD’s mission is to monitor the skies over North America for any potential threats. At the start of Christmas Eve, Santa’s operation begins when a group of radar stations in northern Canada and Alaska detects an infrared signature emanating from Rudolph’s nose. NORAD’s network of geostationary satellites above the Earth is monitoring the trip.
Everything is displayed on large “unclassified” display screens in a festively decorated command post at Space Force Base Peterson in Colorado Springs. Masked volunteers sit at tables outfitted with phones, garlands, miniature Christmas trees, plenty of candy and coffee laden with caffeine and hand sanitizer.
“We have custody” is the motto of the NORAD military mission.
And regarding Santa Claus, NORAD adds:
“Santa Claus commands the blows. We just follow it.
Sorry, Grumpy. Virus won’t stop NORAD from tracking Santa
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