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NORAD's Santa Tracker Switches On Saturday

Assuming his elves haven't come up with some sort of stealth technology to cloak his movements, it's almost time again for children of all ages (who have access to computers or smart phones, that is) to follow the jolly guy's travels via the North American Aerospace Defense Command's Santa tracker.

NORAD's home page for its annual effort to keep tabs on Santa Claus is here. The tracking won't start until the early hours on Saturday (Christmas Eve, of course). But if you want to get into the spirt there's a "Countdown Village" interactive page with 23 games that the younger set will probably breeze through while we older folks try to figure out which dang key to press.

There are also narrations of the letter and response that inspired " yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

Of course (need we say it), there are Apple and Android apps too.

And NORAD has a collection of videos, including this recap of Santa's 2010 trip.

As for any Grinches who wonder why NORAD does this, it began with a wrong number in a 1955 Sears Roebuck & Co. ad in Colorado. According to NORAD:

"The phone number put kids through to the [Continental Air Defense Command] Commander-in-Chief's operations 'hotline.' The Director of Operations at the time, Col. Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.