Santa Tracker 2010: Live, interactive map from NORAD

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PHOENIX -- Fifty-five years ago a typo in a newspaper advertisement sparked the creation of  NORAD's Santa Tracker, an annual tradition that has delighted children of all ages every Christmas Eve. 

On December 24, 1955, a Sears department store placed an advertisement in a Colorado Springs newspaper. The advertisement instructed children to call Santa Claus and included a local telephone number. However, the number printed in the ad was mistakenly the main number of the US Air Force's  Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. After a few calls, Colonel Harry Shoup, who was the Officer-on-duty that night, had an idea.  Shoup  told his staff to give all children that called in the "current location" for Santa Claus. A tradition began which continued when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) replaced CONAD in 1958.

Today, NORAD relies on volunteers to make the program possible. Many volunteers are employees at Cheyenne Mountain and Peterson Air Force Base. Each volunteer handles about forty telephone calls per hour, and the team typically handles more than 12,000 e-mails and more than 70,000 telephone calls from more than two hundred countries and territories. Most of these contacts happen during the twenty-five hours from 2 a.m. on December 24 until 3 a.m. MST on December 25.