NORAD tracks when Santa Claus is comin’ to town


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Volunteers at the North American Aerospace Defense Command are getting ready to monitor Santa Claus as he makes his storybook Christmas Eve flight.

Technology and social media have become an important part of the U.S. and Canadian military tradition, and NORAD Tracks Santa has already attracted a record 1.5 million Facebook “likes.”

The volunteers will spend Wednesday answering phone calls and emails from children and posting updates on the mythical journey to Facebook, Twitter and .

The 59-year-old program now has a control center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, and it generates enough statistics, anecdotes and stories to fill a sleigh:

— HOW IT STARTED: A December 1955 newspaper ad invited kids to call Santa, but the phone number it listed was for the Continental Aerospace Defense Command, the predecessor to the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The officers on duty played along and began passing along reports on Santa’s progress.

— HOW IT WORKS: Kids call 877-HI-NORAD or email starting at 4 a.m. MST on Christmas Eve. A volunteer checks a big-screen computer monitor and passes along Santa’s location. Updates are posted at, and Hundreds of volunteers work for 23 hours on the day — and the night — before Christmas.

— SO FAR THIS YEAR: NORAD Tracks Santa had 1.5 million Facebook likes by Monday afternoon and the total was growing by about 100 an hour. Twitter followers stood at 136,000. Initial website visits weren’t available, and the phone lines and email accounts weren’t live yet.

— AND LAST YEAR: The website attracted more than 19.5 million unique visitors in December, the Facebook page drew 1.45 million “likes” and the Twitter feed had 146,000 followers. Volunteers took 117,000 phone calls and answered 9,600 emails. Another 800 inquiries came in via OnStar. The Facebook likes, Twitter followers, phone calls and OnStar questions were all record highs for NORAD Tracks Santa.

— GROWING FAST: Visits to the website, which was launched in 1997, peaked at 22.3 million in 2012 before dropping to about 19.6 million last year. The reason isn’t clear, but Maj. Beth Castro, a NORAD spokeswoman, said the website might not have been able to accommodate all the traffic.

— PHONE CALLS: Phone calls rose from about 74,000 in 2009 to more than 117,000 in 2013.

— SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook “likes” grew from 1 million in 2011 to 1.45 million last year; Twitter followers were up from 101,000 to more than 146,000.

— NEW THIS YEAR: The website has an animated elf named Radar. “Radar” was the favorite in a vote on Facebook, beating out “DARON,” which is NORAD spelled backward, and “Echo L. Foxtrot,” which uses the military phonetic alphabet to spell out “elf.” NORAD Tracks Santa also has a new mobile version of its website for smartphones.

— WHAT’S NORAD? The joint U.S.-Canada command is responsible for defending the skies and monitoring the sea approaches for both nations. Its control room was originally inside Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs in a shelter designed to withstand a nuclear attack. The control room is now at Peterson Air Force Base, also in Colorado Springs.

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Human Christmas tree



In friendly holiday competition, the new Administrator of St. Patrick Catholic Church in York, Rev. Keith Carroll, shown, took the top prize at the parish school’s annual Human Christmas Tree competition. Decorated by the students of grades 1 – 3, Fr. Carroll received more votes than his good-natured “competitor,” Rev. Jonathan Sawicki from the neighboring Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Mary Elizabeth Muir, school principal.

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Christmas visit by three officers

Three members of the Springettsbury Township Police Department visited students at St. Joseph School, York, on Dec. 20. Chief Thomas Hyers, Lt. Todd King and Officer Matthew Berry treated the students to a reading of the holiday favorite, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Pictured with the students are Lt. King, left, and Officer Berry.

Three members of the Springettsbury Township Police Department visited students at St. Joseph School, York, on Dec. 20. Chief Thomas Hyers, Lt. Todd King and Officer Matthew Berry treated the students to a reading of the holiday favorite, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Pictured with the students are Lt. King, left, and Officer Berry.

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Kid Scoop plays reindeer games

Real reindeer look more like a moose than a white-tailed deer. (Photo by Kevin Dooley via

Today’s Kid Scoop celebrates one of the most enduring images of Christmas — the fact that Santa Claus’ sleigh is pulled by a team of reindeer.

Reindeer, of course, are real creatures but they don’t look quite as cute as the deer Americans are most familiar with. Instead, they’re more like a moose than a white-tailed deer.

Reindeer, which can weigh up to 700 lbs each, come from the subarctic and arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and that makes them ideal animals to help Santa out on his yearly mission. To help them beat the cold, they have a thick coat of fur that can have a variety of colors, including white, brown and black.

Both male and female reindeer grow antlers. This is to help them dig through deep snow and uncover plants to eat.

As for Santa Claus’ reindeer, Wikipedia has a long article on the team, but you know the top nine reindeer, right? They are:

  • Dasher
  • Dancer
  • Prancer
  • Vixen
  • Comet
  • Cupid
  • Donner
  • Blitzen
  • Rudolph (when the weather calls for his inclusion)

Here are some quick video facts about reindeer.

Next you can see the story of Olive. You know her … she’s one of the “other reindeer.”

This video shows reindeer on the move in Iceland … and not a bit of snow to be seen.

Learn about how the people of Siberia used (and some still use) the reindeer to survive.

Hip-hop star DMX sings “Rudolph.”

Photos from Kiskadee 3 and Kevin Dooley via

In the wild reindeer travel in huge herds. (Photo by Kiskadee 3 via

What is Kid Scoop? It’s a special page that appears every Monday in The York Dispatch and other local newspapers. Aside from its main feature and the Writing Corner, it includes games, puzzles and jokes.

Get your copy of Kid Scoop in today’s edition of The York Dispatch, and be sure to assemble your own Write On! entry and submit it to We’ll run every entry here!

Of course, you can submit those entries, and anything else you want, for publication here on the Junior Dispatch. Send your JD items to Learn about what you can submit here.


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Families invited to gingerbread decorating party

Bring the kids for a gingerbread party and leave the mess behind from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, Dec. 8 and 15, at Flinchbaugh’s Orchard and Farm Market, 110 Ducktown Road, Hellam Township.

Emphasizing the importance of healthy eating, kids can also participate in the Taste the Rainbow scavenger hunt at the market. Go on the hunt for a fruit or vegetable of each color in the rainbow and kids will earn an apple for participating. Plus face painting and a coloring contest will be on-going throughout the event on both days. Most activities have minimal charges or are free to attendees.

For more information, contact the orchard at (717) 252-2540 or visit

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Register soon for a photo op with Santa

Santa Claus will be at Senior Commons at Powder Mill, 1775 Powder Mill Road, York, from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11.

Photo opportunities with Santa will be available for children, grandchildren and small pets. Children are invited to sit on Santa’s lap and share their secret wish list. Hot chocolate and cookies will
be provided.

This event is free and open to the public, but reservations are requested by Dec. 7.

To register, call Denise Lauer at (717) 741-0961.

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