Band Keith Coffman
DENVER, December 24 (Reuters) – Undaunted by the pandemics, supply chain issues and labor shortages plaguing land-based commerce, Santa was due to launch his reindeer-powered sleigh on Friday to deliver Christmas presents to good girls and boys around the world, according to military officials who track his flights.
“Santa Claus has been doing this for centuries, he’s a professional,” said Canadian Army Captain Alexandra Hejduk, spokeswoman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
The joint US-Canadian military command based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., is tasked with monitoring air defenses and issuing aerospace and maritime warnings.
NORAD’s Santa tracking practice originated in 1955, when a Colorado Springs newspaper misprinted the number of a local department store for young people to call and talk to Santa, mistakenly listing the number of that which was then called the Continental Air Defense Command.
A duty officer took calls and assured the children that Santa Claus, also known as Kris Kringle or Saint Nicholas, knew their wish lists and was on his way.
The annual tradition has continued for 66 years and is now part of NORAD’s mission.
Happy Old Elf followers can get real-time updates at noradsanta.org or through social media platforms. Or they can call a NORAD-sponsored Santa Claus hotline to speak with a live operator.
Other US government agencies were also preparing.
The US Secret Service, tasked with protecting the president, also provides security for Santa Claus, the agency said in a statement on Twitter, accompanied by video of officers preparing for duties to protect Santa Claus.
“The Big Red Protective Detail is selected, assembled and stands ready“, the statement said. “The American public can be assured that MS Claus, here from the North Pole, will travel safely throughout his tour of the United States.”
In Ottawa, federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said he had authorized Santa Claus to travel in Canadian airspace. Santa Claus had his proof of vaccination ready and tested negative, the ministry said in a statement.
“Although his nose was red and shiny, Rudolph (the reindeer) made sure he had no symptoms of COVID-19 before leaving on this important mission,” he added.
(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Steve Gorman, Leslie Adler and Dan Grebler)
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