Santa entered North American airspace half an hour before Christmas Eve, at 04:30 Zulu time, according to the mission team in Canada charged with tracking his trip around the world this weekend.
That's right, Canada helps the U.S. track Santa's present-delivering flight. The North American Aerospace Defense Command, run jointly by the two nations, does it each year live online. Click here to watch Santa's progress.
Part of the team is based in Canada, and it's "one of the coolest jobs in the world," says Maj. Gen. Christian Drouin, commander of the Canadian NORAD Region, in a YouTube video that explains just how the tracking gets done.
Anyone can follow the journey online with the Santa tracker website — it's live now and began tracking Father Christmas early Saturday morning — but only a select few actually escort Mr. Kringle into North American airspace. That'd be a pair of Canadian fighter jets based out of Quebec, Drouin and his team explained.
U.S. & World
Santa and the military communicate with a direct land line, and when he visits the Canadian NORAD Region headquarters in Winnipeg, he gets to sit in Drouin's chair in the briefing room. "Nobody else sits there but me!" Drouin exclaims.
NORAD monitors North American airspace for missile attacks and other unauthorized objects in the sky, and Drouin says the same technology keeps tabs on Santa's present-laden sleigh.
"Let me tell you a secret: Rudolph's nose glows on our radar. We can see the red nose from miles away," Drouin said, confidentially.
There are other videos live on the tracker website, along with games, music and more. As usual, "Santa Cams" are streaming videos as Saint Nick begins his route, and starting at 6:01 a.m., trackers can call 1-877-HI-NORAD or email email@example.com and ask an operator for Santa's exact location.
Fifteen hundred people are answering phone calls and emails, while more than 9 million unique visitors visit the website from upwards of 200 countries and territories worldwide, NORAD says.
The tracking service began 61 years ago, when a misprinted phone number in a newspaper ad directed children thinking they had Santa's direct line to dial an Air Force base in Colorado that hosted the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, now NORAD.
The commander on duty played along, checking the radar for signs of Santa for each of the inquisitive kids, and a tradition was born.