, HONOLULU, Dec 25 – First Lady Michelle Obama on Friday assisted the US military in tracking Santa Claus on his gift-bearing mission across the globe, in a popular Christmas Eve tradition begun more than half a century ago.
While on a 10-day vacation in Hawaii with her president husband and their two daughters, Obama fielded telephone calls for 40 minutes from children seeking information from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) on Santa and his reindeer.
The US and Canadian defense command has set up a telephone line — and since 1998 an official "Santa Tracker" on its website (www.noradsanta.org) in seven languages — to find the current location and upcoming stops for Saint Nicholas.
Some of the hundreds of thousands of children placing calls on Friday were surprised to hear such a familiar voice on the other end.
"Hello, this is First Lady Michelle Obama with NORAD Tracks Santa. How may I help you?" was her stock response, according to NORAD.
Obama "assured the children that NORAD is tracking Santa\’s progress closely and that his journey was going well this Christmas Eve," it added in a statement.
"I received calls from some very excited kids tonight wanting to know where Santa is and when they could expect him at their house. I told them he would arrive once they went to sleep," Obama said.
One of the children even asked Michelle Obama if she could see Rudolph, whose "nose so bright" steers Santa on his merry way, NORAD said.
"All right, I\’m looking at the radar," she told another little girl named Juliana. "It\’s a big, huge radar — and it looks like Santa is flying over Croatia, a part of Europe, right now.
"But they can tell from this radar that — it looks like all nine reindeer are pulling the sleigh tonight, including Rudolph. And it looks like the sleigh is extremely full. So that\’s pretty exciting…. Have you been good this year?"
NORAD\’s Santa tracking tradition dates back to 1955, when a Colorado newspaper advertisement printed a phone number to connect children with the cheerful Christmas icon that mistakenly directed them to NORAD\’s hotline.
To avoid disappointing the little ones, NORAD\’s director of operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, ordered his staff to check the radar to see where Santa might be and update the children on his location.