Santa Claus was over Japan early Friday and heading south toward Guam, the Marshall Islands, New Guinea, and ultimately Australia, according to a special, Google Earth-powered Web site established by the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
From Australia, Santa was expected to head east to cover Asia and Europe, before arriving in North America Friday night.
In addition to the tracking maps, the Web site, NoradSanta.org, also features interactive tools that allow children to explore Santa's village at the North Pole, play holiday-themed card games, and see what's going on at Santa's bakery and workshop.
NORAD has been tracking Santa ever since 1955, when a Colorado newspaper ad misprinted a phone number that was supposed to connect kids with the jolly Christmas elf. Instead, the number was the NORAD (the agency at the time was known as the Continental Air Defense Command) Commander-in-Chief's hotline.
Not wanting to disappoint children who called in, then operations director Col. Harry Shoup instructed his staff to "track" Santa's progress on radar and provide children with updates over the phone.
NORAD's official position is that, yes, there is a Santa Claus. "Based on historical data and more than 50 years of NORAD tracking information, we believe that Santa Claus is alive and well in the hearts of children throughout the world," the agency said.
NORAD, a bi-national organization, consists of U.S. and Canadian military personnel tasked with monitoring and protecting North America's air sovereignty.
Each year at Christmas, the defense agency gives Santa Claus the green light to pass through Canadian and American air space so he can deliver presents to children who've been nice, and not naughty, throughout the year.