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NORAD Will Follow Santa Claus This Year

FILE - A playbook sits next to a telephone set up in the NORAD Tracks Santa center at Peterson Air Force Base, Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, in Colorado Springs, Colo.
NORAD Will Follow Santa Claus this Year
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Children around the world can rejoice. Santa Claus will follow his yearly path and give presents to good children everywhere this Christmas. The worldwide pandemic will not interfere.

In traditional stories, Santa Claus is a happy old man who gives gifts to good children all over the world on the Christmas holiday.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) announced that it will follow Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, December 24. It has provided the service for 65 years.

There will, however, be some changes to NORAD’s usual Christmas Eve activities. With fewer volunteers, not every child will be able to reach NORAD’s call center to find out where Santa Claus is, as they have in years before.

Usually, 150-160 volunteers sit in a large office at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. The volunteers spend two hours answering the telephone, talking to children who want to know when Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, will arrive in their town.

In the past, about 1,500 people have taken more than 130,000 phone calls from children, starting at 11:00 Universal Time on December 24. NORAD receives calls for 20 hours, about the time it takes Santa Claus to circle the earth.

FILE - Monitors are illuminated in the NORAD Tracks Santa center at Peterson Air Force Base, Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, in Colorado Springs, Colo.
FILE - Monitors are illuminated in the NORAD Tracks Santa center at Peterson Air Force Base, Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

This year, NORAD must follow safety restrictions forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of volunteers has been cut to what NORAD expects will be fewer than 100 people.

“We understand this is a time-honored tradition, and we know undoubtedly there is going to be some disappointment,” said NORAD spokesman Preston Schlachter. “We’re trying to keep it safe for everyone involved,” he added.

So, some children may be able to get through to a member of the military or other volunteers when they call the NORAD Tracks Santa toll-free number, 1-877-Hi-NORAD. But others will get a recorded voice message stating Santa’s location.

Schlachter said NORAD will be limiting volunteers to people who already work there and their family members. But that could be expanded later. He said this year's volunteers will answer health questions and have their temperature taken when they arrive. Cleaners will wipe down surfaces throughout the day, and every two hours the room will be sanitized.

The military command has been taking Christmas Eve calls from children since 1955. That year, the commander on duty was Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup. He got a call from a child who was trying to speak to the Santa Claus at a local store, but had the wrong telephone number. Shoup quickly explained that he was Santa Claus, and the tradition began.

Today, most early calls come from Japan and Europe, and as the day goes on the callers from the U.S. and Canada increase.

Besides the call center, there is a NORAD Tracks Santa website,, as well as social media pages. Amazon Alexa, Onstar and a new mobile app will also provide Santa’s location. A social media team will operate from a separate large office at the base.

The tracking Santa apps will soon be available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

I’m Susan Shand.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.


Words in This Story

rejoice– v. to feel or show that you are very happy

pandemic– n.the fast spread of an infectious disease over a very large area or the whole world

disappointment– n. a feeling of unhappiness or sadness because something did not happen as expected

location– n. a place or position

sanitize– v. to make something free from dirt or infection

app– n.(computer) short for a computer application