How to Track Santa Claus in 2023

Caitlin Dempsey

Updated:

For over five decades, a large number of kids and grown-ups have relied on upon the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), to track the whereabouts of Santa Claus as he makes his Christmas Eve journey.

How the NORAD Santa Tracking Tradition Began

In 1955, a Sears Department store printed a number on a special notice put in a Colorado Springs daily paper that kids could call to get upgrades about Santa’s area on Christmas Eve. Excited youngsters dialed the number ME 2-6681. The number was misprinted on the flyer and callers wound up dialing the Colorado Springs’ Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center.

Luckily, Colonel Harry Shoup, who was on duty that night, instructed his staff to give any callers with an update about Santa’s “current travels”. In 1958, NORAD supplanted CONAD and the convention proceeded.

How is Santa Tracked?

Those intrigued have dependably possessed the capacity to track Santa Claus on Christmas Eve utilizing a mixed bag of routines. From the 1950s to 1996, Santa was followed by calling into the NORAD Santa Tracking hotline, daily newspaper updates, radio reports, and TV reports. Some climate reports even included Santa sightings. Starting in the late 1990s, the ability to track Santa via the Internet was launched.

A group of people sit around a large wooden conference table with a screen in the background showing a snowy scene with Santa and his reindeer flying.
Volunteers responded to phone calls and emails from children worldwide during the annual NORAD Tracks Santa event on December 24, 2021 at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. Photo: Jhomil Bansil, Air Force, public domain.

Today, users can track Santa with following a range of Internet options. For instance, the NORAD Tracks Santa Facebook page has more than 1.9 million followers and its twitter account has in excess of 209,000 followers.

What are the best Santa Trackers?

Santa tracking has come a long way from the early days of providing phone updates to callers. Now, children around the world can track Santa Claus online. The two most popular Santa trackers are:

  • NORAD Tracks Santa
  • Google Santa Tracker

NORAD Santa Tracking

The NORAD Santa Tracking website is active from December 1 of every year until about mid-January although a static page invites visitors at any other time of the year to come back when the site is active. Until Santa’s trip starts on Christmas Eve, a countdown clock tells guests when the Santa following will start.  

Screenshot showing the NORAD Santa Tracker website with a Christmas village with tan houses with red roofs.
Visitors to NORAD’s Santa Tracker website can play games, listen to Christmas music, and watch movies about NORAD’s Santa Tracker while they wait for the Santa tracking to begin on Christmas Eve.

To keep visitors occupied during the wait, guests play around in different areas of the site, such as as exploring Santa’s North Pole town, watching features, listening to Christmas music, and reading about Yuletide customs.

The official Santa tracking begins at 4am Mountain Standard Time (MST) when the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center starts operations. Radar, satellites, Santa Cams, and military airplane simulations are used to provide a fun, interactive experience. NORAD’s approach blends entertainment with education, offering insights into the workings of radar and satellite technology.

Google Santa Tracker

Google’s Santa tracker is known for its integration with Google’s technology and services. It provides a highly interactive and graphical experience, using the familiar interface of Google Maps to show Santa’s current location and his next stops. It also includes fun facts about each location Santa visits, making it an educational tool for learning about different cultures and geography.

A screenshot of the Google Santa trackers featuring a winter snow and ski theme.
Google’s Santa Tracker.

Like the NORAD Santa Tracker, Google’s version also starts the official tracking of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. A countdown clock in the upper right of the screen lets visitors know how long until Santa tracking begins.

Until then, visitors can play along with a series of challenges that teach basic coding processes by click on the red “play” button in the middle of the home screen. Using a series of direction commands (arrows for north, east, south, and west) as well as repeat and jump commands. There are 14 levels, each increasing slightly in difficulty as you move up the levels. The point of the game is to code Santa’s movements to reach a blue box with white ribbon.

A screenshot of a basic coding game with a heads down look at Santa and grids.
Type in the right series of coding commands to move Santa Claus to the present. Screenshot from Google’s Santa Tracker.

There are also some other games and short animations to keep visitors entertained until the Google Santa Tracker kicks off on Christmas Eve.

When to Start Tracking Santa Claus?

Both the NORAD and Google Santa trackers don’t start officially tracking Father Christmas until the evening, local time, of Christmas Eve.

According to NORAD, Santa visits the South Pacific first, then New Zealand and Australia. He then travels to Japan and the rest of Asia, across to Africa before moving on to Europe, Canada, the United States, Mexico and Central and South America.

This article was originally written on December 3, 2016 and has since been updated.

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

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