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Where in the world was Santa? It depended on which online tracker you were following

A look at where Santa Claus was traveling around 10:30 p.m. EST.Screenshot via NORAD

Where in the world is Santa Claus?

Depends on whom you ask.

Two popular Santa trackers — Google and NORAD — were purportedly showing different locations for St. Nick on Tuesday night, causing many people (especially parents) to take to the Internet to air their grievances.

According to The Washington Post, the NORAD tracking system, which is run by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, uses satellites, radar, jet fighters, apps, social media accounts, and volunteers to track Santa’s location. However, it’s not entirely clear how or why Santa determines the route he takes.

This year’s portals for NORAD include Alexa, OnStar, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and 3-D apps that integrate geospatial and satellite-positioning technology with high-resolution graphics that display the actual positions of the stars, sun, and moon and the shadows they cast at any point in Santa’s journey, according to the Associated Press. It takes dozens of tech firms — including (interestingly enough) Google, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, and Bing Maps — to deliver the immersive effect for global Santa trackers, with some 15 million visits to the website alone last year, according to the AP.

While the NORAD tracker shows Santa traveling over a detailed globe-esque setting, the Google tracker takes a more 2-D approach. Google’s version also features many Christmas-themed games to keep children (and, sure, adults) entertained as Father Christmas makes his journey.


A look at where Santa was on the Google tracker shortly before 10:30 p.m.Screenshot via Google

“Psst! Did you know, Santa’s journey lasts 25 hours?!” a Google webpage reads. “He makes his first stop just after 10 PM local time in far eastern Russia, when it’s 5 AM in New York and 11 AM in Paris.”

The Washington Post notes that NORAD — which was expected to see 140,000 or so phone calls on Christmas Eve — and Google’s trackers have seen similar snafus in previous years, chalking the differences up as “a testament to Santa’s mischievous ways.”


At least one Twitter account seemed to explain the discrepancy:

However, if you find yourself doubtful of either or both of the online trackers, the Post notes: “You can always look up at the night sky to see if you can spot Santa and his reindeer yourself.”

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JaclynReiss