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Here’s how to track Santa on his busiest night of the year

Santa is making the final preparations for his big night out and you (or your kids) can track his whereabouts as he makes his way toward your home on Christmas Eve. Just make sure you’re asleep before he arrives — and that you’ve put out the obligatory milk and cookies.

The two most popular Santa trackers come from Google and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, better known as NORAD.

Google’s offering seems to grow every year, with its Santa-focused website packed with tons of colorful games and activities. Santa Selfie, for example, lets you give the guy in the red suit a new look. Have fun painting his big white beard an array of bright colors, or simply shave it off — the choice is yours. Code Lab, meanwhile, offers up programming basics with a festive theme, packaged into a fun series of tasks to keep your kids entertained.

The all-important tracker

On Tuesday, Santa’s Village will introduce the all-important tracker that lets you follow Santa and his reindeer as they deliver presents to kids around the world. If it’s anything like Google’s previous trackers, it’ll tap its vast database of mapping content to offer an accurate view of Santa’s whereabouts, while also allowing you to dive down to ground level so you can explore particular locations via Street View.

You can find Google’s Santa Tracker on its website, or via the Android app. Sorry, Google’s tracker isn’t available for iOS.

You can also check out NORAD’s offering. Its website also has lots of enjoyable stuff to do before the tracker fires up on the day before Christmas.

NORAD, for those not in the know, is a binational U.S. and Canadian command tasked with keeping an eye on the region’s airspace for incursions perpetrated by foreign actors. It also operates a really cool Santa tracker. Go figure.

Though not as comprehensive as Google’s effort, NORAD’s site still offers up various online games, festive songs, and reading material about Santa’s magic sleigh and different holiday traditions around the world.

You can access the content via its website, or by downloading the Android or iOS app.

There’s a neat story about how NORAD’s Santa-tracking service got started. It was thanks to an error made by a Colorado Springs newspaper on Christmas Eve in 1955. A hotline phone number offering children the chance to get in touch with Santa was misprinted by the newspaper. The number it showed was for NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Aerospace Defense Command. Of course, it was inundated with calls from excited kids hoping to speak to Santa. Fortunately, the operators who were working on that day were kind enough to play along and happily gave out updates on Santa’s whereabouts throughout the evening.

The error led to an annual tradition, with the arrival of the internet offering the service new possibilities.

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