One of the hardest things to do on Christmas eve is get the kids to bed. One good trick is the old ‘Santa won’t come if you’re awake’ line, and to emphasise the point, you can always switch on a Santa Tracker.
The idea of tracking Santa on his trip around the world is 65-years old this year. The tradition started – at least according to legend – when US department store Sears misprinted an advertisement for children that included Santa’s phone number. The misprinted phone number was allegedly for the US Continental Air Defense (CONAD) Operations Center, which later became NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) – the military outfit which track all objects in US airspace. The commander at the time saw the PR value in tracking Santa, and so a tradition was born.
NORAD has been tracking Santa for the entirety of the 65 years, but there’s also options to use Google, as well as your smart speaker to track the jolly fat man.
The NORAD Santa tracker website and app are online now with information about NORAD, as well as links to Christmas themed games – a new one every day of December.
There’s also a countdown timer, with the NORAD countdown clocking Santa’s tracking from 8pm. There’s even a new Chat with Radar feature this year, that will let you get live tracking information from the source.
If you have some international call credits on your plan, you can also try out calling the NORAD team from the number on their website.
Google Santa Tracker
Google first started tracking Santa in 2004, though it was a partnership with NORAD in the form of an extension for Google Earth. The Google Earth plugin is now gone, but Google has gone all in on tracking St Nick since 2011 with their Google Santa Tracker website.
Previously Google has provided Android and iOS apps, however this is Google, so it’s now a Progressive Web App (PWA) which renders amazingly well on iOS and Android devices. You can even save the PWA to your phone’s desktop just like an app for easy access.
For 2020’s Santa Tracker, Mr & Mrs Claus have both donned purple masks, a real sign of the times which hopefully won’t be needed next Christmas.
Just like the NORAD site there’s a bunch of things to do on the Google Santa Tracker including Santa Selfies which let you style Santa with your personal look, or play a heap of games. You can also track Kris Kringle on his journey from 9pm.
Smart Speakers are now almost everywhere, and both Google and Amazon have updated their speakers to give responses to the question “Where’s Santa”?
Alexa will activate her Santa Tracking satellites, and Santa will give you an update himself on what he’s up to – he’s feeding the reindeer this morning.
Alexa will also offer to have Santa sing for you, Beatbox, or use a couple of commands to interact with Santa directly. Amazon has added options including “Alexa, sing a song with Santa”, “Alexa, play Elf Radio” to get ‘The North Pole’s number one hit music station, as a partnership with iHeartRadio, which nets you a playlist of Christmas songs.
If you want to talk to Santa directly, you can do that now by saying “Alexa, call Santa”.
As a smart speaker you can also leverage any number of Alexa Skills including a NORAD Santa Tracking skill which includes commands like “Alexa, ask NORAD Tracks Santa for a fact from the Santa Files.”
Google has also added direct support for tracking Santa from your Google Assistant powered device. Just ask Google “Hey Google, where is Santa?” to get a current update on Santa’s location.
Just like Alexa, you can use Google Assistant to talk directly to Santa by saying “Hey Google, Call Santa” to be connected via the North Pole switch board.
Google also has a robust third party eco-system of developers providing apps for Google Assistant with a large range of Santa themed options ranging from Quiz’s through to calls to Santa himself available.
Finally, Apple too is getting in on the Santa action today, though it’s a little lackluster compared to the above. If you ask Siri to ‘Track Santa’, you’ll get a variety of responses ranging from ‘He’s in your heart’, or “He’s at the North Pole, of course” and various answers on that theme.
There’s no visual tracking for Santa via Siri this year, but we can hope the folks at Cupertino are thinking of adding something fun next year.