(NORAD Santa web site)
Although the site's reason for existence -- which we'll get to in a moment -- is Christmas Eve, it's got fun activities that can be enjoyed by kids of all ages between now and then.
The front page of the site has an actual countdown calendar for Santa's arrival, and if that's important information for you to have you can also download a NORAD Tracks Santa app for your phone or tablet, with a countdown clock plus links to videos and other information.
It all started in 1955, when a department store in Colorado tried to advertise a telephone number children could call to hear a message from Santa. There was a misprint -- which happens in newspapers every now and then -- and the number which was actually published was that of the crew commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command, or CONAD, at Peterson AFB in Colorado. Suddenly beseiged with calls from children, CONAD kept its holiday spirit and applied its considerable tracking skills and technology to identify Santa's location and pass it along to curious kids.
CONAD, which later became NORAD, has tracked Santa every Christmas since. You can still call a toll-free telephone number -- (877) 446-6723 -- on Christmas Eve, but it's more fun to go to the web site, where Santa's progress can be tracked on Bing Maps and where videos are available of Santa and his sleigh whooshing past various world landmarks as he makes his way across various time zones. You can also e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and get an e-mail back with Santa's current location.
You can follow @NoradSanta on Twitter, and there's a Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/noradsanta.
We will also have the official NORAD Tracks Santa map on display at the Times-Gazette web site, t-g.com, on Christmas Eve.
The actual Santa tracking starts at 1 p.m. our time on Christmas Eve (that's noon in Colorado), which gives you plenty of time to watch as Santa passes through various Pacific, Asian and European sites before bedtime here in the U.S.
The one thing the site won't do is help you move from the "naughty" list to the "nice" list. You're on your own there.
--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government.