It’s Christmas Eve at last - and the countdown to Christmas is reaching its final hours.
Santa has been working hard all month reading wish lists and prepping everyone’s presents with the help of Mrs Claus and his team of elves at the North Pole - but only if you’ve been on your best behaviour.
But now he’s set off on his sleigh, pulled by a fleet of reindeer, and within just 24 hours he’ll have entered the chimneys and left gifts beside the trees of millions of children around the world.
Kids can keep track of his journey around the globe today with the help of the NORAD Santa Tracker.
The site provides a minute-by-minute update of wherever Father Christmas is at any one time so families can predict when Santa might be arriving at their home.
Read on to find out how you access it, the number of people who use it every year, and the incredible story behind the founding of the service...
How does the NORAD Santa Tracker work?
It’s the go-to method of finding out where Father Christmas is in the sky at any one time - and there are three ways you can find out.
The easiest way is to check the site - which launches each year on 1st December - where there’ll be a map which will update every hour or so, each time it turns midnight in a different time zone.
Last year, people were able to track Santa’s journey from 8am GMT on 24th December.
You can also call +1 877 446-6723 to talk directly to a staff member who will be able to tell you his exact location. Phone lines are operated from 4am MST (11am GMT) until midnight. But be warned, this may get pricey if you call from the UK, depending on your phone contract.
If you’d rather put it in writing, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will get back to you with his latest location.
How many people use the NORAD Santa Tracker?
Every year, the site receives almost nine million unique visitors who are from more than 200 countries around the world.
As well as those who check the website, there are approximately 140,000 phone calls.
Santa is pretty busy too. He sets off from Lapland and travels an estimated 510,000,000 km - or 1,800 miles per second.
That’s because he’s got 390,000 homes to drop presents off at - and eat the mince pies left for him - per minute.
It’s thought that he consumes around 71,764,000,000 calories on his long night shift.
What is Father Christmas’ journey around the globe?
Santa always starts his journey in the South Pacific, with his first stop to the Republic of Kiribati.
He then travel west to New Zealand and Australia, before moving up to Japan, Asia and Africa.
After that, he’ll make it to East and Western Europe, Canada, the United States, Mexico and Central and South America.
The site adds: “Keep in mind, Santa’s route can be affected by weather, so it’s really unpredictable.
“NORAD coordinates with Santa’s Elf Launch Staff to confirm his launch time, but from that point on, Santa calls the shots. We just track him!”
This means that the tracker won’t be able to tell you the exact time he’ll reach your home.
“We do, however, know from history that it appears he arrives only when children are asleep!” they warn.
“In most countries, it seems Santa arrives between 9:00 p.m. and midnight on December 24th. If children are still awake when Santa arrives, he moves on to other houses.
“He returns later…but only when the children are asleep!”
Revealing the technology they use to track Santa, they explain: “The moment our radar tells us that Santa has lifted off, we begin to use the same satellites that we use in providing air warning of possible missile launches aimed at North America.”
The satellites are located in a fixed spot at 22,300 miles above the Earth and they have infrared sensors which mean they can detect heat.
Since it gives off the same heat as a single rocket or missile launch, the satellites detect Rudolph's bright red nose with no problem.
How long have NORAD been tracking Santa for?
NORAD stands for the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
They are an organisation run by the United States and Canada in partnership and - aside from tracking sleighs pulled by reindeer - their primary role is defending the airspace of North America.
According to their website, this includes “the monitoring of man-made objects in space, and the detection, validation, and warning of attack against North America whether by aircraft, missiles, or space vehicles, through mutual support arrangements with other commands”.
Come Christmas Eve, however, they stop to keep an eye on the route of Father Christmas across the globe.
Along with their predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), the organisation have tracked Santa’s journey for more than 60 years.
The unique service started in 1955 by complete accident when Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement accidentally misprinted a telephone number for kids to call Father Christmas.
When they dialled the number, children happened to be directed to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief's operations ‘hotline’.
According to their website, after an influx of calls from children the “The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole.
“Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born.”
In 1958, the US and Canada created a joint air defence command which took on the role of monitoring Santa’s route.
Since then, more than 1,500 volunteers a year give up their time to respond to phone calls and emails from children globally on 24th December.
Thanks to the advent of the internet, children have been able to track online Santa’s exact route since 1997.