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NORAD Marks 50th Year of Tracking Santa

For half a century, the military agency dedicated to detecting threats against the United States and Canada has reported Santa's sleigh ride to curious youngsters around the world.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- For half a century, the military agency dedicated to detecting threats against the United States and Canada has reported Santa's sleigh ride to curious youngsters around the world.

With help from several civilian companies, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, reports Santa's progress on a Web site in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. It also answers telephone calls and e-mails as part of the Christmas Eve tradition.

The reported track began at the North Pole, of course, and NORAD said Santa Claus was spotted in North America - on Canada's eastern coast - followed by New Zealand, Australia, Japan, China, Nepal and India.

Last year, the tracking Web site at http://www.noradsanta.org received 912 million hits from 181 countries, and the Santa Tracking Operations Center answered nearly 55,000 phone calls on Christmas Eve.

According to NORAD lore, the tradition began in 1955 when Sears-Roebuck placed an ad in The Gazette in Colorado Springs telling kids to dial a number if they wanted to talk to Santa.

But the number was one digit off. When the first call came to NORAD's predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command, Col. Harry Shoup told an eager child he would check the radars for Santa.

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