- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 24, 2005

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The military agency dedicated to detecting any threats against the United States and Canada is marking the 50th year of reporting Santa’s sleigh ride.

With help from several civilian companies, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, operates a Web site, https://www.noradsanta.org, reporting Santa’s progress and helps answer telephone calls and e-mails from people around the world.

The reported track began at the North Pole, of course, and by early yesterday, NORAD said Santa Claus was “spotted” in New Zealand, followed by Australia, Japan, China, Nepal and India.

Last year, the tracking Web site received 912 million hits from 181 countries, and the Santa Tracking Operations Center answered nearly 55,000 phone calls on Christmas Eve.

According to NORAD lore, the tradition began in 1955 when Sears-Roebuck placed an ad in the Colorado Springs Gazette telling children to dial a number if they wanted to talk to Santa.

But the number was one digit off. When the first call came to NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command, Col. Harry Shoup told an eager child he would check the radars for Santa.

The Web site is available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish.

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