US Air Force tracks Santa's progress

Last updated 11:28 25/12/2012

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Volunteers at a US Air Force base monitoring Santa Claus' progress around the world are on track to answer a record number of calls from children wanting to know everything from Saint Nick's age to how reindeer fly.

Oh, and when are the presents coming?

Phones were ringing nonstop at Peterson Air Force Base, headquarters of the North American Aerospace Command's annual Santa-tracking operation.

NORAD, a joint US-Canada command responsible for protecting the skies over both nations, says its Santa-tracking rite was born of a humble mistake in a newspaper ad in 1955.

The ad in a Colorado Springs newspaper invited children to call Santa but inadvertently listed the phone number for the Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD's predecessor, also based in Colorado Springs.

Officers played along, and word spread that this Cold War military command charged with guarding the US against an attack by the Soviet Union was also telling kids where Santa was.

Since then, NORAD Tracks Santa has gone global, posting updates for nearly 1.2 million Facebook fans and 104,000 Twitter followers.

Volunteers at NORAD Tracks Santa also were on pace to exceed last year's record of 107,000 calls, programme spokeswoman Marisa Novobilski said.

"How old is Santa?" one caller asked. The answer to that one is in the FAQs that NORAD hands out to volunteers: "It's hard to know for sure, but NORAD intelligence indicates Santa is at least 16 centuries old."

Other questions required the volunteers to think fast:

"How do reindeer fly?"

"How many elves does Santa have?"

"Does Santa leave presents for dogs?"

One little boy phoned in to ask what time Santa delivered toys to heaven, said volunteer Jennifer Eckels, who took the call. The boy's mother got on the line to explain that his sister had died this year.

"I think Santa headed there first," Eckels told him.

NORAD suggested that its volunteers tell callers that Santa won't drop off the presents until all the kids in the home are asleep.

"Ohhhhhhh," said an 8-year-old.

"Thank you so much for that information," said a grateful mum.

A young boy called to ask if Santa was real.

Air Force Maj. Jamie Humphries, who took the call, said, "I'm 37 years old, and I believe in Santa, and if you believe in him as well, then he must be real."

The boy turned from the phone and yelled to others, "I told you guys he was real!"

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- AP

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