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Wed, Dec 28, 2011

NORAD Breaks Record For Santa Tracking Calls

Phone Volunteers Included First Lady Michelle Obama

It started as a mistake more than a half-century ago in 1955, after a phone call was made to the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center in Colorado Springs by a local youngster who dialed a misprinted telephone number in a local newspaper advertisement. The commander on duty who answered the phone that night played along, and gave out info on the whereabouts of Santa. The annual phone operation became a tradition that was carried on by NORAD when it was formed in 1958.

The NORAD Tracks Santa program grew immensely after it was first presented on the Internet in 1998. The website now receives millions of unique visitors from hundreds of countries and territories around the world. In addition, a live operations center is occupied for 25 hours with more than 1,200 volunteers each year who receive hundreds of thousands of phone calls and emails from families around the world.

Still more growth is now being driven by Facebook and Twitter. The Associated Press reports that the 2011 effort not only set another record, but blew last year out of the water. Facebook "likes rose from 716,000 last year to 999,000. Twitter followers jumped even more, from 53,000 to 89,000. And old-fashioned telephone traffic jumped from a previous high of 80,000 to 102,000 calls.

For the second year in a row, First Lady Michelle Obama personally answered phone calls regarding Santa's journey from a connection forwarded to Hawaii, where the First Family is vacationing. Sh commented afterward, "It is wonderful to be part of this holiday tradition. I love answering calls from children who were anxious to learn where Santa was and when he would arrive at their home. I passed on to each child the current location of Santa and reminded them that he would come to their house only after they were in bed sleeping."

Lt. Cmdr. Bill Lewis told the AP the kids were not at all intimidated to have the First Lady on the other end of the phone. "They all just asked run-of-the-mill stuff. They wanted to know about Santa."

To be fair, if you're six years old, Santa is a much bigger deal than the First Lady.



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