NORAD Santa tracker unaffected by government shutdown

/ CBS News

The government may have partially shut down, but the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is still tracking Santa Claus' journey across the globe. The tracking has already begun and NORAD will be fielding calls throughout the day and night from children, trying to pinpoint exactly where Santa is and when he will make his long awaited arrival.

NORAD has been following Santa for decades with the help of nearly 1,500 military personnel and volunteers. In the past, some of Santa's helpers included former first lady Michelle Obama, who answered calls for more than six years running. President Trump and first lady Melania Trump assisted NORAD during the 2017 holiday season.

Maj. Andrew Hennessey of the Canadian military said NORAD began tracking Santa 63 years ago and started as a local advertisement in a local Colorado Springs newspaper.

"It was a Sears administration printed a phone number that was meant to be calling Santa directly and it ended up calling our operations director at the time. He took a call from the child, thought it was a prank and kind of figured out what was going on. Quickly after that, and 'NORAD Tracks Santa' continues that tradition today."

This 2014 image shows first lady Michelle Obama answering children's calls to the NORAD Santa Tracking program on Christmas Eve. White House Photo

As of Monday afternoon, Santa was spotted traveling over Saudi Arabia, Hennessey said.

"Generally, he starts around the international dateline, goes to New Zealand, Australia, Asia pacific, Europe and finally into North America, where we will escort him with NORAD fighter jets in Canada and the United States. We're locked right onto him with our radars in the systems we use every day to defend North America."

For those looking for live updates on Santa's journey, NORAD offers live updates by phone, Facebook, Twitter and email. If you call 877-HI-NORAD, someone will give you an update.

First published on December 24, 2018

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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