From the look of things it seems to be an anxious time. So we are told by the media, Presidential candiates and public opinion polls. Security is on the minds of many who believe that more has to be done at home and abroad to make us safe. It seems that no one and no place is being spared a more discerning look.
But there is an exception.
For 60 years NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) has been tracking Santa Claus as he leaves the North Pole and delivers presents to children around the world.
One of America’s key weapons in defense of its homeland is NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command. With its slogan of “Deter, Detect, Defend” its stated mission is as follows:
What does “aerospace warning” consist of? It includes “the monitoring of man-made objects in space, and the detection, validation, and warning of attack against North America whether by aircraft, missiles, or space vehicles, through mutual support arrangements with other commands.”
NORAD is trained to be on guard – vigilant for anything suspicious.
But on Christmas eve, this suspicion, is trumped by Santa’s message of goodwill and hope – even in these anxious times. There is a website dedicated to keeping us all informed on just where Santa is.
The Tracking Santa program began on December 24, 1955, when 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 misprinted and calls instead came through to Colorado Springs’ Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. Colonel Harry Shoup, who was on duty that night, told his staff to give all children who called in a “current location” for Santa Claus. A tradition began which continued when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) replaced CONAD in 1958.
The NORAD Tracks Santa program has always made use of a variety of media. From the 1950s to 1996, these were the telephone hotline, newspapers, radio, phonograph records and television. Many television newscasts in North America feature NORAD Tracks Santa as part of their weather updates on Christmas Eve.From 1997 to the present, the program has had a highly publicized internet presence. As mobile media and social media have become popular and widespread as methods of direct communication, these newer media have also been embraced by the program.
The layout of the NORAD Tracks Santa website and its webpages have changed from 1997 to the present due to changes in internet technologies, and changes in partners and sponsors for a particular year.Between 2004 and 2009, people who visited the NORAD Tracks Santa site were told they could “track” Santa in Google Earth.
From mid-January until November 30, when one arrives at the NORAD Tracks Santa website, one is greeted with a message to come back on December 1 to “track Santa with NORAD”. During December, one finds a NORAD Tracks Santa website with all the features available. On Christmas Eve, the NORAD Tracks Santa website videos page is generally updated each hour, when it is midnight in a different time zone. The “Santa Cam” videos show CGI images of Santa Claus flying over famous landmarks. Each video was accompanied by a voice-over until the end of the 2011 season, typically done by NORAD personnel, giving a few facts about the city or country depicted.
The locations and landmarks depicted in some of the “Santa Cam” videos have changed over the years. In 2009, twenty-nine “Santa Cam” videos were posted on the website. In previous years, twenty-four to twenty-six videos had been posted.NORAD reported that for Christmas 2013, it logged 19.58 million unique visitors to its website on Christmas Eve, and 1,200 volunteers answered 117,371 calls.
Through social media, it had 146,307 Twitter followers and 1.45 million “likes” on Facebook. That year, NORAD contracted with Bing Maps to provide 2D map tracking, ending a five-year contract with Google.
In an era where folks are wary of sharing military information, the Sanata Tracker is proof that it still possible to act in a cooperative and transparent way – free of suspicion.
If only that model could prevail beyond Christmas eve.
Maybe Santa can help us address this attitudinal challenege when he is now busy with his Christmas tasks.