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American Air Force tracks Santa for kids

world Updated: Dec 26, 2012 00:37 IST
Santa Claus' progress

Volunteers at a US Air Force base monitoring Santa Claus' progress around the world answered a record number of calls from children - and some adults - wanting to know everything from Saint Nick's age to how reindeer fly.

Hundreds of volunteers were answering the phones ringing nonstop Monday at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, 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. Since then, NORAD Tracks Santa has gone global, posting updates for nearly 1.2 million Facebook fans and 104,000 Twitter followers.

Spokeswoman 1st Lt. Stacey Fenton said as of midnight, trackers had answered more than 111,000 calls, breaking last year's record of 107,000.

First lady Michelle Obama, holidaying with her family in Hawaii, also joined in, as she has in recent years.

NORAD got calls from 220 countries and territories last year, and non-English-speakers called this year as well.

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.