12/02/2016 05:30 EST | Updated 12/24/2017 16:24 EST

NORAD Santa Tracker Story Is Simply Magical

Happy holidays, readers!

We've updated this story. You can track Santa on this official NORAD site. We've also included a few survival tips for the holidays below.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) officially launched its Santa tracker this week. While counting down to Christmas and watching ol' St. Nick make his way around the globe on Christmas Eve are wonderful, the origin story of the tracker is even more magical.

According to NORAD, it all started in December of 1955, three years before the organization was even founded.

Col. Harry Shoup, who worked for the Continental Air Defense Command in Colorado, got a call on his secret line from a child asking to speak to Santa. And then more kids started calling... and calling... and calling.

"Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number," Shoup's daughter, Terri, explained to NPR.

The straight-laced military man thought it was a joke and he wasn't impressed, but then the child started crying.

"And Dad realized that it wasn't a joke," his other daughter, Pam, told NPR. "So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho'd and asked if he had been a good boy and, 'May I talk to your mother?' And the mother got on and said, 'You haven't seen the paper yet?"

Turns out Sears department store had printed an ad in the Colorado Springs paper, which included a phone number to call Santa. But the number had been misprinted -- and featured Col. Shoup's line by mistake.

"They had children calling one after another," Pam explained. "So he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus."

And that is how the tradition began.

In 1958, Continental Air Defense Command became NORAD. And 61 years after that first phone call, NORAD has grown to be the world's official tracker of Santa. More than 20 million people log on to their site to monitor the jolly guy's journey on Christmas Eve. All thanks to Col. Shoup.

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