By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - Undaunted by pandemics, supply-chain woes and labor shortages plaguing Earth-bound commerce, Santa Claus was set to launch his reindeer-powered sleigh on Friday to deliver Christmas gifts to good girls and boys worldwide, according to military officials tracking his flights.
“Santa’s been doing this for centuries, he’s a professional,” said Canadian Army Captain Alexandra Hejduk, a spokesperson for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
NORAD, a joint U.S.-Canadian military command based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is charged with monitoring air defenses and issuing aerospace and maritime warnings across North America.
NORAD'S Santa-tracking practice originated in 1955, when a Colorado Springs newspaper misprinted the telephone number of a local department store for youngsters to call in and speak to Santa, mistakenly listing the number for what was then called the Continental Air Defense Command. An on-duty officer took the calls and assured the children that Santa, also known as Kris Kringle or Saint Nicholas, knew of their wish lists and was on his way.
The annual tradition has continued for 66 years, becoming part of NORAD’s mission.
Followers of the jolly old elf can obtain real-time updates on his whereabouts by logging onto noradsanta.org or through various social media platforms, or they can call a NORAD-sponsored Santa telephone hotline to speak with a live operator.
Other U.S. government agencies were likewise gearing up ahead of Santa’s yuletide visit.
The U.S. Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting the president, also provides security for Santa, the agency said in a statement posted on Twitter, accompanied by a video showing its agents preparing for Santa-protection duties.
“The Big Red Protective Detail is selected, assembled and stands ready to fulfill their seasonal mission,” the statement said. “The American public can rest assured that Mr. S. Claus, here from the North Pole, will travel safely and securely throughout his U.S. tour.”
(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Steve Gorman and Leslie Adler)