Tracking Santa

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) - December 25, 2019 - 12:00am

When did you stop believing there’s a Santa Claus?

That was when you left childhood. I can’t remember when I did. If you start believing again, are you entering second childhood?

At my age, maybe. Or perhaps I like the idea of Finland having an official Santa Claus, in his own village in the country’s Lapland province, with a postal office for children’s written wishes, reindeer and sleighs, and of course toy shops. Lapland capital Rovaniemi, Santa’s official home, reportedly receives an average of 32,000 letters daily from around the world.

I’m not the only adult who takes Father Christmas seriously. There’s a website dedicated to him, emailsanta.com, where kids can send their Christmas wish lists and vow that they’ve been more nice than naughty during the year.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has a Santa tracker, which gets to work on Christmas Eve.

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Here are interesting tidbits about Santa, reprinted from a report from Britain’s The Telegraph:

Santa’s journey across the globe 

Every year on Christmas Eve, Santa sets off on his sleigh from Lapland with his trusty reindeer, travelling an estimated 510,000,000 km – approximately 1,800 miles per second.

Christmas Eve is a busy time for Father Christmas as he needs to visit 390,000 homes per minute – or 6,424 per second. 

From sherry, mulled wine and beer, to mince pies, gingerbread men and fruit cake, Santa won’t be short of energy during his journey, consuming a total of 71,764,000,000 calories. 

With plenty of driving involved throughout the night, let’s hope children opt to leave him non-alcoholic beverages.

Santa’s travel route

Father Christmas’ journey always begins in the South Pacific, with his first stop to the Republic of Kiribati, a collection of 32 atolls in the Pacific Ocean.

He then travels west, delivering presents to those in New Zealand and Australia, followed by Japan.

Santa then carries on his journey to Asia, Africa and Western Europe, concluding with Canada, the US, Mexico and South America.

How to track Santa’s journey with NORAD

Throughout the year, the US and Canadian organisation NORAD, monitors aerospace in event of nuclear attack, but when Christmas Eve comes around, they monitor the skies for Santa’s sleigh. 

Every year, the NORAD Tracks Santa website receives nearly nine million unique visitors from more than 200 countries and territories across the globe who are keen to follow Santa on his journey. On December 24, 1,500 volunteers respond to emails and receive more than 140,000 calls regarding Santa’s exact whereabouts. 

Earlier this month, NORAD launched their festive website, with games, videos, music and stories, all available in a range of languages.

On Christmas Eve, the official Santa tracker will launch, enabling keen followers of Father Christmas to monitor his journey of delivering presents. 

The history behind NORAD’s role at Christmas

On a Christmas Eve shift back in 1955, Colonel Harry Shoup answered a call made to the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) in Colorado Springs, USA.

To his surprise, a young child had phoned the top secret line after finding a newspaper advert about “Santa’s Toyland” from department store Sears, with the number of CONAD, NORAD’s predecessor, printed by mistake. …

Colonel Shoup, dubbed “Santa Colonel,” later received multiple calls that night from other children, all looking for the whereabouts of Father Christmas. 

He and his fellow call operators together informed the children calling throughout the night of Santa’s exact location. The Santa tracking tradition, later continued by NORAD, was born.

NORAD has carried out its Christmas role for over 60 years and since 1997, children across the globe have been able to monitor Santa’s journey online.

More than 50 years after the night of calls from children, Colonel Shoup’s granddaughter Carrie Farrell, who worked for Google, announced their partnership with NORAD to track Santa in 2007 – although the companies have since parted ways, carrying out their holiday roles separately.

How to track Santa’s journey with Google

Following the success of NORAD’s holiday role, Google launched Keyhole Santa Radar in 2004 as part of Keyhole Earth Viewer, now known as Google Earth. 

Google later developed the Santa Tracker website and each year at the start of December, Santa’s Village launches, with an array of fun games and educational resources for children and families. 

This year, children can improve their coding skills with Santa’s Elves, learn how to say different seasonal greetings from around the world and take a holiday traditions quiz. They can even use their Google Assistants to call Santa or tune in to the daily North Pole Newscast. 

On Christmas Eve, Santa’s Village will transform into a tracking experience, allowing children to monitor his progress of delivering presents on their desktop, mobile and tablet devices. 

Santa Claus around the world

While Britons often picture Father Christmas to be a jolly character with a white beard, wearing a red suit and big black boots, other countries around the world visualise the beloved festive figure differently. 

In Belgium and the Netherlands, Santa is known as Sinterklaas, who wears a bishop’s alb and cape with a ruby ring and travels on a white horse.

In Russia, Grandfather Frost arrives on New Year’s Eve to deliver gifts whereas in Finland, Joulupukki knocks on children’s doors on Christmas Eve to ask if they have been well-behaved.

In France, Pere Noël rides a donkey called Gui, putting sweets inside children’s shoes left near the chimney while in Italy, an old witch called La Befana delivers presents to good children. (End of article) 

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If you no longer hang stockings or write a wish list for gifts from Santa, you can heed his message. From Lapland, this year’s official Santa says the best gift to give is time – time spent with loved ones.

Have a merry Christmas, everyone!

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