Kindness Advent Calendar: December 24, 2023 (Christmas Eve)
'Twas The Night Before Christmas...🎅🏼
Happy Christmas Eve!
Welcome to Day 24 of your Kindness Advent Calendar! Throughout December, we will provide you with your daily act of kindness through our Kindness Advent Calendar! Come and celebrate the holiday season as we are kind all December long.
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for the NORAD Santa Tracker! Today, we are going to share with you the history of the NORAD Santa Tracker!
Since 1955, NORAD Tracks Santa (North American Aerospace Defense Command) known back then as CONAD Tracks Santa (Continental Air Defense Command), has been one of the most famous Santa Trackers on the internet for Kids and Families across the World.
It all started with a typo.
It was a December day in Colorado Springs when the phone rang on Col. Shoup's desk. Not the black phone, the red phone.
"When that phone rang, it was a big deal," said Shoup's daughter, Terri Van Keuren, 71, a retiree in Castle Rock, Colorado. "It was the middle of the Cold War and that phone meant bad news."
Shoup was a commander of the Continental Air Defense Command, the early iteration of the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
It was not a place of fun and games. And when that red phone rang - it was wired directly to a four-star general at the Pentagon - things got real. All eyes would have been on Shoup when he answered.
"Col. Shoup," he barked. But there was silence.
Finally, a small voice said, "Is this Santa Claus?"
Shoup, by all accounts, was briefly confused and then fully annoyed. "Is this a joke? Just what do you think you're doing," he began.
But then the techno-military might of the United States was brought up short by the sound of sniffles. Whoever was on the phone was crying, and Shoup suddenly realized it really was a child who was trying to reach Santa Claus.
The colonel paused, considered, and then responded:
"Ho, ho, ho!" he said as his crew looked on astonished. "Of course, this is Santa Claus. Have you been a good boy?"
He talked to the local youngster for several minutes, hearing his wishes for toys and treats and assuring him he would be there on Christmas Eve. Then the boy asked Santa to bring something nice for his mom.
"I will, I will," Santa-Shoup said. "In fact, could I speak to your mom now?"
The boy put his mother on the phone, and Shoup went back to business, crisply explaining to the woman just what facility their call had reached.
"He said later he thought she must have been a military wife," said Van Keuren. "She was properly cowed."
But she also had an explanation. The woman asked Shoup to look at that day's local newspaper. Specifically, at a Sears ad emblazoned with a big picture of Santa that invited kids to "Call me on my private phone, and I will talk to you personally any time day or night."
The number provided, ME 2-6681, went right to one of the most secure phones in the country.
"They were off by one digit," said Van Keuren. "It was a typo."
When Shoup hung up, the phone rang again. He ordered his staff to answer each Santa call while he got on the (black) phone with AT&T to set up a new link to Washington. Let Sears have the old number, he told them.
The radio station ate it up, the networks got involved and an enduring tradition was born. This Christmas Eve marks the 67th straight year that NORAD is publicly tracking Santa's sleigh on its global rounds.
In good military fashion, the Santa tracking command has grown terrifically complex. NORAD deploys satellites, radar, jet fighters, and Santa cams to feed its website, apps, and social media accounts used by more than 2 million followers. Naughty and nice alike can follow Santa's movement on 3-D maps in eight languages. Last year, when Alexa was asked,
"Where's Santa?" more than 1.5 million times, it was NORAD that fed her the answer.
But the real emotional outlay comes in the Colorado Springs live call center, staffed for 20 hours on Dec. 24 by more than 1,500 volunteers (many of them local service members and their families). With a nine-page Santa Tracker manual in hand, they fielded more than 260,000 calls in 2022.
NORADSanta.org doesn't just feature Santa's tracker - which goes live at 4 a.m. EST on Christmas Eve - It also has a holiday countdown, along with games, holiday music and other features.
The website is available in multiple languages, including English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Chinese.
There is a "NORAD Tracks Santa" app for your phone as well!
Santa enthusiasts can also call in to see where Santa is flying with his sled by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723), where they will either speak with a live phone operator or hear a recorded update.
Google also has its own Google Santa Tracker! Will you be tracking Santa this Christmas Eve?
"But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight- "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
~ Clement Clarke Moore - A Visit from St. Nicholas