Welcome, everyone, to this year’s Santa Tracker! There’s still some time before Santa takes off, so if you haven’t set up Santa’s special thank-you gift yet, now’s the perfect time. Here in the UK, we leave carrots for Santa’s reindeer, and the man himself receives a mince pie and sometimes even some kind of alcoholic tipple like sherry or brandy (or Guinness, in some Irish households!).
Down under in Australia, Santa gets a nice cold beer to help him beat the heat, whereas Danish families leave out a bowl of rice pudding with cinnamon called Risengrod for the elves. In the US, Santa gets milk and cookies, and Argentina sees the reindeer rejuvenated with hay and water.
We’ve just got off the phone with Santa, and he’s surprisingly calm for someone who’s about to undertake the single greatest gift-giving mission known to man; unless of course, you count that time Apple gifted everyone Songs of Innocence by U2. What a weird day that was.
Anyway, Santa mentioned something pretty neat if you’re into Christmas trivia. Nearly 100 years ago in 1927, Santa got his official pilot’s license from the US government. Both he and Mrs. Claus were even granted Canadian passports back in 2013, too, courtesy of Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.
Now, we all know how it can get when it comes to watching TV at Christmas time, and if you’re looking to keep the peace, I’d strongly recommend checking out our picks of the 7 best movies and TV shows to stream this weekend.
None of them are particularly festive, mind you, so we’ve also compiled a few other lists to give you some ideas:
So, let’s give a quick overview of what Santa’s schedule is.
As far as NORAD is concerned, Santa is kicking off in about seven hours at 4AM EST / 9AM GMT / 5PM AWST, giving me just enough time for a full night’s sleep before the excitement begins. Google, however, is willing to let me sleep in, suggesting Santa takes off an hour later than that.
We’ll be sharing trivia and Christmas alongside keeping tabs on Santa all day long tomorrow. As a very, very vague guideline, Santa tends to fly over most countries sometime between 9PM and midnight in whatever your local time zone is, so make sure to set your alarms now, bookmark this page, and come back to check when he’s nearby.
With that, it’s time for this little elf to go finish her own Christmas preparations – see you in the morning!
Good morning! And Happy Christmas Eve, if that’s a thing. Of course it’s a thing – Christmas Eve is one of the best days of the year and deserves to be celebrated in its own right.
Anyway, NORAD says there’s now just 90 minutes to go until it starts tracking Santa. Google says there’s still two and a half hours, but we think NORAD knows more about this kind of thing, so we’ll stick with that.
Whether it’s right about the takeoff time or not, Google’s Santa Tracker site really is a wonderful thing, and I particularly love the little video that plays at the start. It’s enough to get even the hardest-hearted Grinch into the festive spirit. But, if anyone from Google is reading this, I do have a slight issue with it – and it concerns penguins.
Look, we all know Santa lives at the North Pole. But we also know that penguins are southern-hemisphere creatures. They don’t live in the North Pole. Then again, maybe Santa has flown them out there to help him prepare for Christmas – they do seem quite good at getting him ready for his flight, after all.
So, what can you expect to see once Santa takes off? Well, Google uses its Maps technology to plot the bearded one’s progress, as well as providing a helpful tally of how many gifts he’s delivered so far and some useful information about the local area.
NORAD, meanwhile, has the advantage of having actual satellite images of Santa on his sleigh, rather than just a cartoon. Our suggestion: follow both and get double the fun.
While we’re patiently waiting for Santa’s reindeers to hoist him into the air, there are a ton of ways to pass the time on both the Google Santa Tracker and the NORAD Santa Tracker.
Head to the Google site and you can play a variety of games: from bouncing presents into their targets to taking down elves with snowballs. Just click the menu button in the top left to see the games gallery.
Over on the NORAD site we’ve got holiday songs, Santa facts, and games involving penguins, candy canes and plenty more – each house on the main page has something behind it.
In fact, there’s enough here to keep you entertained all through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so it might be worth bookmarking these pages for later.
According to NORAD, Santa will be on his merry way in less than an hour.
I thought it might be fun to try out Radar, NORAD’s chatbot, to see how it was getting on before Santa Claus takes off.
It’s not the most advanced artificial intelligence right now – it’s certainly no ChatGPT – but it didn’t tell me something I didn’t know before, which is that Santa’s sleigh travels at the speed of starlight. As everyone knows, that’s fast – really fast. Don’t tire out those reindeer, Santa!
That gave me an idea, actually, so I asked Google’s own AI, Bard, the same question. It gave me a lot more information, stating that:
“The speed of Santa’s sleigh is a bit of a mystery, as it depends on some assumptions we make about his Christmas Eve journey.
Here are a couple of ways to think about it:
If Santa visits every child in the world in one night:
This would be an incredible feat, as there are billions of children around the globe!
Calculations based on this assumption suggest Santa would need to travel at speeds far exceeding anything we can imagine, like thousands of times faster than the speed of sound!
At such speeds, Santa and his reindeer would face major challenges like extreme g-forces and friction from the atmosphere.
If Santa takes advantage of time zones:
The Earth is divided into 24 time zones, so as Santa travels east, he effectively gains an extra hour for every time zone he crosses.
This gives him more time to deliver presents and reduces the required travel speed to a more manageable range, around 0.5% the speed of light.
Even at this speed, Santa’s sleigh would still be incredibly fast, but at least it wouldn’t violate the laws of physics!”
Bard finishes by saying that:
“Ultimately, the exact speed of Santa’s sleigh is a matter of speculation and Christmas magic. But one thing is for sure, he must be incredibly fast and efficient to deliver all those presents in one night!
“So, whether you believe Santa travels at supersonic speeds or takes advantage of time zones, the important thing is to remember the spirit of Christmas – spreading joy, love, and generosity. And that, my friend, is something that travels at the speed of light! Merry Christmas!”
While I wait for Santa to take off I like to amuse myself by playing some of Google’s excellent games. My favorite is Quick Draw – although I’m not very good at it.
How does it work? Well the robot asks you to draw something, then tries to guess what it is. It’s like Pictionary, but with a robot rather than your family all shouting at you. The effect is much the same though, with it getting repeatedly annoyed at me and saying “I don’t know what that is!”
Google takes its Santa tracking very seriously (as it should do).
For instance, it lets you use Google Assistant to communicate directly with the patron of presents (either using Google Assistant baked into your Android phone, the Google app on iPhone in some regions or a Google-enabled smart speaker or smart hub), allowing anyone to say ‘Hey Google, what’s new at the North Pole’ and hear the latest news updates from Santa’s world.
It’s great fun and well worth trying.
There’s now just 10 minutes until Santa takes off, according to NORAD. Exciting!
This just in: Santa is preparing for lift-off! Before he begins his epic gift-giving voyage around the world, Santa needs to do his final checks. Reindeer? Check. Reins? Check. Presents?
He forgot the presents. That’s what last minute checks are for!
Right, we’re just 1 minute anyway from NORAD’s Santa Tracker starting. Let’s see what happens!
And we have good news! The NORAD tracking site has confirmed: “Current conditions at the North Pole indicate good weather for flying.”
That’s what we like to hear.
The NORAD website seems to be struggling a little bit right now, which is exactly the same problem we had last year. Maybe Santa needs to buy them some new computers for Christmas?
There are no such problems on the Google Santa Tracker, which already has its map live ahead of the big man’s departure in about 50 minutes. It’s currently showing a live feed of the preparations 🙂
OK, the NORAD site is working again – it’s showing that cheery photo of Santa preparing (scroll down). It looks like both sites will have him taking off at the same time, which is in about 45 minutes at 5AM ET / 2AM PT / 10AM GMT / 6PM AWST. Not long to go, folks.
Whenever there’s a lull in conversation at this time of year, you can always start a debate about what the best Christmas movie is – or even a debate about what it is that makes a movie a Christmas movie. Does it have to be set over the holidays? Is snow compulsory? Does Santa need to make an appearance?
You can check out our rundown of the best Christmas movies and see if you agree with our choices. There are some classics in there and some that are perhaps a little less well-known, though your personal favorite might not be included. In this live blogger’s personal opinion, there’s something special about 1985’s Santa Claus The Movie (pictured above) – though you won’t find it on many lists.
We haven’t forgotten about Santa by the way – he’s due to set off in 30 minutes. We can only imagine the sort of bedlam happening around his sleigh at the moment, a sleigh which is reportedly going to be packed with 60,000 tons of presents.
If you’re in the US, you can actually call NORAD from 4am MST today up until midnight to find out where Santa is: the number you need is 1 877 HI-NORAD (1 877 446-6723).
NORAD says that more than 1,250 uniformed personnel and civilian volunteers give up their time to answer calls and to make sure you always know where Santa is. Our AI-generated image above gives you a great idea of what that must look like.
However, they’ll also give you an important warning: Santa isn’t going to deliver his presents until you’re asleep!
Folks we’re t-minus 5 minutes from the big take-off – over on the Google Santa Tracker the map view is showing the man of the moment preparing to leave the North Pole.
Meanwhile the NORAD Santa Tracker is still showing a picture of Father Christmas packing up presents. He’s cutting it mighty fine here, but we assume after all these years he knows what he’s doing.
And he’s off (at least on the Google tracker)! We can confirm that Santa is now heading over the Arctic Ocean and has already delivered nearly 900 presents. St Nicholas is good at this, right?
It’s now Christmas Day somewhere… did you know the earliest time zone on planet Earth is UTC+14:00? And it didn’t even officially exist until 1994. The islands of Kiribati have now ticked over to Christmas Day, though with a population of under 120,000 Santa doesn’t have too many presents to deliver.
As yet NORAD hasn’t updated its 2D or 3D maps – but we’re watching closely for the next update.
With Santa already hard at work we’re still waiting for the NORAD Santa Tracker to get a lock on his location – but we expect the big man has his most excitable elf currently working on the issue, and for now, you can stick with using the Google Santa Tracker.
Managing these trackers isn’t easy, considering how fast Santa is flying around the world in order to deliver every present on time. We’re hoping the reindeer get Christmas Day off.
Gifts delivered count: 3,000 and rising fast.
Santa’s first stop, according to Google, will be Provideniya in Russia. I’ll be honest, I don’t know a lot about it (or anything about it, really), but it looks like a pretty place, if slightly windswept.
NORAD still hasn’t updated, but Google now has Santa over the sea east of Russia and says he’s now delivered 66,000-plus gifts in 15 minutes. That’s probably more than even Amazon can manage!
Santa has now just arrived in the Marshall Islands after his trip around eastern Russia. Current delivered present count: 2,716,121! He’ll be around the Pacific nations for a while now, before then heading for New Zealand and Australia.
If you want to find out where Santa is hands free, and you have an Echo or Echo Dot, then another trick you can try is enabling the NORAD Santa Tracker skill on Alexa, which will then allow you to say things like “Alexa, ask NORAD Tracks Santa, where’s Santa?” – it’s a bit cumbersome but if Alexa is the only smart assistant in your house, you’ve got to work with what you’ve got.
You can ask ‘Alexa, where’s Santa?’ if you enable another holiday personality skill too – head into the app and you’ll see it displayed proudly at the top, and you can get stories, info and all manner of things too.
Santa has arrived in New Zealand! He’s likely had to take his jacket off while putting out presents, as it’s 23°C / 73°F right now in Auckland – so it’s little wonder that in this country a BBQ is just as likely to be the official meal of Christmas Day as a traditional roast lunch or dinner.
Christmas trivia: Kiwis have their own special Christmas tree called the Pōhutukawa, which has bright red flowers that are popular decorations and also feature on Christmas cards. It’s been associated with Christmas since the mid 1800s, though many people do also erect the globally recognized pine-style tree in their homes.
Present count update: Santa has given out more than 14 million presents so far, and he’s just getting started.
BIG UPDATE! NORAD’s tracking is now up and running! There he is in all his glory…
This is perhaps something you shouldn’t mention to the kids if you’re in the US, UK, or Australia – but in a lot of countries, presents are actually opened on Christmas Eve. It’s the tradition in many parts of Europe and South America, and it’s something the British Royal Family does too.
Now that both the NORAD and Google trackers are up and running, we can see that they’re not quite in full agreement about where Santa is right now: he’s either heading for the Marshall Islands in the central Pacific Ocean, or New Caledonia in the South Pacific.
If anyone can be in two places at once, it has to be Santa Claus.
NORAD reckons Santa is a lot more generous than Google: at the time of writing NORAD puts the number of presents given out at more than 244 million, and the big guy with the beard is just getting started. Google puts the figure at a more modest 37 million right now, but perhaps Google has more information about who’s been naughty or nice this year.
Of course, thanks to the wonders of the internet, last-minute Christmas gifts aren’t a problem any more. You can email a loved one a gift voucher or a subscription to a streaming service at a moment’s notice, although these aren’t really the kind of presents you can wrap up and put under the tree.
Google says Santa and his reindeers are now on their way to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on Sakhalin Island, in eastern Russia.
We don’t know too much about the place, but we do know Google uses its Santa Tracker to learn more about its systems and tools. The tech giant gets its staff in the festive mood by letting developers experiment with computer and mobile interactions through the Santa Tracker – but apparently, it doesn’t always go to plan.
In a blog post, Dave Holmes who works in developer relations at Google said: “One engineer who focused on AI and human movement came up with this idea for a game where you could enable tracking on your computer and teach the elves to dance, and they would mimic your movement.”
But just before launch, they found a glitch. “If the tracker lost you for a second… the elves’ heads and arms would go flying off!”
The NORAD tracker appears to be broken again – we’re back to the “Santa prepares” screen – but don’t worry kids, because Google’s Santa Tracker is still keeping tabs on the gift-giver in chief.
The guy just landed on Chichijima island off Japan, a country where the holiday season works a bit differently. In Japan, New Year’s Day is the main day to celebrate with family, and Christmas Eve is Japan’s version of Valentine’s day – so it’s very much the season of sentimentality.
Japan’s Christmas culture is fairly unique, too. Believe it or not, the meal of choice on Christmas in Japan is KFC, with an estimated 3.5 million Japanese families flocking to the fast food chain for their Christmas chicken fix. There are also some typical traditions like Christmas cakes, lights, and markets with a culturally relevant Japanese spin on them.
After some deep digging – i.e. checking X, the platform formerly known as Twitter – we’ve discovered that NORAD is indeed having “technical difficulties” with its tracker, but you can still keep up with Santa’s whereabouts via the @NoradSanta X account.
According to Google’s map, Santa Claus is busy zooming around the edges of the Pacific Ocean, having delivered close to 50 million presents. He’s going to be checking off a lot more countries on his list over the next few hours.
Hey Santa Trackers. There is some technical difficulties with tracking Santa’s location. He is heading to Fiji! #NoradTracksSanta #NoradSantaDecember 24, 2023
Bonza, Santa’s arrived in Australia! In the December warmth of the southern hemisphere, the only white Christmas you’ll find is the froth of waves over the beach. Naturally, Christmas traditions follow from this: Santa often stops for a surf in some board shorts, and Christmas dinner is often a cold meal, or a seafood barbecue including – yes, you guessed it – shrimp and prawns.
Cricket is also a big tradition especially on Boxing Day (the holiday on the day after Christmas day, which the country shares with the UK, unsurprisingly given their history).
We hope Santa is delivering something wonderful for our colleagues in TechRadar Australia – happy Christmas, Sharm, Jasmine, Petra and Max!
The NORAD Santa Tracker is back, and also puts him in Australia, so it’s good to know that the world’s most powerful data crunchers (the US Government and Google) are in agreement.
Santa has made his way out of Australia (it took a while – it’s quite large), and is now heading to South Korea – and has just passed 300,000,000 gifts delivered, according to Google’s tracker.
Like Japan, South Korea celebrates Christmas as a holiday of romance, which couples will spend together, more akin to Valentine’s Day than what we think of as Christmas in the UK or US. And it’s an official public holiday, so they really get to enjoy their day.
The Christmas delicacy of choice is sponge cake covered in whipped cream and strawberries – the fruit of love!
Did you know that the most successful Christmas movie at the box office is The Grinch – not the Jim Carrey one, the animated movie from 2018, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Angela Lansbury? It beat Home Alone, which held the record previously.
However, if you adjust for inflation, Home Alone takes the prize comfortably.
When it comes to Christmas songs, the Guinness Book of World Records claims that Bing Crosby’s White Christmas is the best-selling Christmas song… and, if fact, the best-selling single of all time. We doubt its popularity has changed too much in the era of streaming, since it’s probably on every single Christmas playlist.
All I Want For Christmas is You by Mariah Carey seems to be the only song even close to challenging Bing for popularity. Wikipedia even claims that it’s the best-selling Christmas ringtone, from back when people paid for ringtones. We’ll be honest, we’re taking Wikipedia’s word on that; we didn’t dig too deep into it ourselves.
Both NORAD and Google have Santa back in Japan and heading towards Sapporo. The city has a great park and a beautiful beer museum, but we suspect he won’t have time for tourism.
Santa is now heading towards Yakutsk, in Russia. It sits on the Lena river, which is the longest in Russia, which is not exactly a small country. The Lena river is actually the 11th longest river in the world, and passes some incredibly dramatic countryside – in particular, the Lena pillars and Lena cheeks, which tower over the river.
Santa is heading towards Harbin in China, which is home to a famous Ice and Snow Festival that’s one of the most magical things you’ll ever see. It doesn’t happen over Christmas – it takes place in early January – but it’s where huge structures and sculptures are made from snow and ice and lit up in creative ways. See this article on the BBC for lots more information about it, and (most importantly) lots of mind-blowing pictures.
Now Santa is making his way to Mongolia, where Christmas isn’t widely celebrated, but there are small communities that do. Interestingly, though, Mongolia does widely have the tradition of a “New Year’s Tree” which is a triangular, pine-style tree decorated with lights and baubles. Yes, it’s basically what people who observe Christmas would recognize as a Christmas tree, but made to honor and enjoy a different holiday. So while things are different in Mongolia, they’re quite familiar, too.
Having visited Eastern China, Santa is on his way to the Phillippines. Christmas is huge there, where it’s known as Pasko, with excitement and celebrations starting in early September, running through to December 25th.
Celebrations include a lot of Western Christmas traditions – including waiting for Santa, singing carols and sending cards – but there are also some traditions unique to the Filipinos, such as the ‘parol’, which is a star made from bamboo strips with colored paper over its panels, making for a stained-glass effect, to commemorate the star that the wise men followed.
People will often stay up all night on Christmas Eve to see in the big day!
Ah, Santa’s on his way to Hong Kong, which is another place that loves to go big for Christmas. You can’t expect a white Christmas there, but the fluffy white silvergrass fields you can find in the countryside certainly feels close!
The city itself will include elaborate decorations and huge festive markets, so you’ll definitely feel the Christmassy vibe all over. In West Kowloon, there’s a whole Christmas Town you can visit, which is up from November to January, and includes a gigantic tree, vibrant decorations, and the chance to visit Santa (even before he made this stop).
Santa’s just arriving in Taiwan. Not everyone in Taiwan celebrates Christmas, and a lot of people might not even have the day off! But you can still see Christmas lights in shopping centers, and those who are feeling really festive might be able to visit the biggest Christmas tree in Taipei, which is 15 meters tall and has over 27,000 bulbs to make it sparkle.
Did you know that Santa’s sleigh has to travel 650 miles per second (that’s 3,000 times the speed of sound!) in order to deliver all those presents on time? That makes it the fastest vehicle on the planet. It’s a good job he can fly, and doesn’t have to deal with holiday traffic on the roads.
All that flying must have useful for getting round all the different islands of the Philippines – where Santa has just finished delivering presents – too.
If you fancy a quick break, there are plenty of games to explore on the Google Santa Tracker. I’ve just found one that lets you create your own festive tunes with help from a group of multi-talented elves. They’re probably pretty pleased to have finished their work for the year, with all their toys safely packed away in Santa’s sleigh and off on their way to their new owners.
NORAD’s Santa tracker isn’t working quite as it should be. He was last seen there heading towards Christmas Island, which got its title in 1643 when Captain William Mynors from the British East India Company named the island after spotting it on Christmas Day (although there were sightings from English and Dutch navigators dating back to the early 1600s). The island is now famous for its incredible coral reefs, as well as red crabs, whale sharks, and sea birds.
It’s not quite time for me to head off to bed, but if it’s evening where you are, and you’re too excited to drop off, maybe some specially-chosen festive tunes could help? Someone did some research to find out the best Christmas songs to help you sleep, by looking at the common factors in Spotify’s most popular sleep playlists, and matching them up against holiday songs. Apparently, you’re looking for a song that’s mostly acoustic, not very lively or happy, and which doesn’t make you want to get up a dance. Which all makes sense. 94 BPM (beats per minute) was found to be the most common tempo.
While Santa makes his way around Southeast Asia, I am exploring more of the games on the Google Tracker. Perhaps after all that hard work, Santa could do with a bit of pampering? Head to Google’s Santaselfie and you can give him a makeover. There’s some clippers to trim his beard (or, if you like, shave him completely), a hairdryer that seems to cause him some alarm, and some perfume to make him smell nice and festive. Less traditionally, there are also three cans of spray paint, which can be used to create some pretty funky beard patterns.
NORAD now has Santa heading back into China. There, he’s better known as Dun Che Lao Ren (dwyn-chuh-lau-oh-run). You’ll find plenty of classic traditions, but with a Chinese twist – for example, those who celebrate Christmas might do so by lighting their homes with paper lanterns, or personalizing their trees with paper decorations.
Either Santa has duplicated himself or someone’s tracking skills aren’t up to scratch! Google still has Santa making his way around China, but according to NORAD he’s zoomed all the way off into Russia. I hope he catches up with himself soon.
In the UK, we leave a mince pie (made from sweet dried fruit, not meat!) out for Santa to snack on as he makes his way around the globe. If you’re not busy delivering presents to millions of children, that’s not a good thing to eat just before bed, because it’ll make it harder to sleep. But we’ll give Santa a pass – he probably doesn’t have time for a nap, after all.
Google now has Santa heading into Russia, where he’s known as Ded Moroz, or Father Frost. He travels with Snegurochka – a snow maiden who is said to be his granddaughter. Your Santa might be round and jolly but in Russia he’s tall and thin, and instead of traveling by sleigh, he makes his way around the country using a ‘troika’ pulled by horses.
Father Frost is actually a little early to be giving out his gifts here – Russians have a New Year tree rather than a Christmas tree, so the children there will be looking for their presents on 1 January.
Winter Festivals take place across Russia, but the biggest one is in Moscow and runs from them middle of December to the middle of January. There you can marvel at spectacular ice sculptures, ride a ‘troika’ (which is what Santa uses to get around, there!) and eat bagels and jam.
If you want to keep an eye on where Santa’s up to, but need your hands free to wrap your own presents, then you can use your Echo or Echo Dot. Enable the NORAD Santa Tracker skill on Alexa, and then say, “Alexa, ask ‘NORAD Tracks Santa’, where’s Santa?” to get your update.
According to Google’s tracker (the NORAD one’s still having a few problems) Santa’s just finished dropping off gifts in Kyrgyzstan. Just like in Russia, Santa usually visits on New Year’s Eve rather than Christmas eve. At midnight, families throughout the country set off fireworks to celebrate.
Right, so NORAD has Santa wrapping up (pun intended) in India, where Google says he’s heading there now.
While Christmas isn’t quite as unilaterally celebrated in India, the festivities are still observed with fervor nonetheless – and different regions have different traditions. For example, Kerala sees a big focus on the nativity, with the community banding together to create the best possible scene and add flair to the crib. Branches from mango trees serve as Christmas trees, adorned with baubles and homemade decorations.
On the other hand, in Goa, celebrations start far earlier in the month with various markets, carnivals, and parades, and Burma sees the season commence with decorating in the second week of December and Carollers distributing money collected during their chorus to the poor and needy.
Santa has made his way across the Middle East and back up to Russia, according to NORAD, while Google seems to be lagging a little behind as he zig-zags across India.
Christmas is an exciting time, but less so for sleep-deprived parents who might struggle at the best of times to get excitable children to bed. Throw an impending visit from Santa into the mix and you’re set for a fun evening of bargaining with little ones.
Never fear – we’ve compiled our top tips for setting kids off to sleep before Christmas – and one to absolutely avoid. Spoiler alert: the Santa scare doesn’t often work all too well, but healthy sleep habits will help.
It’s not even Christmas yet, but I’ve already received one of the best gifts I could have wished for – BlackPink is performing a free VR concert for Meta Quest 3 and Oculus Quest 2 owners.
The concert will take place on December 26 at 5pm PT / Wednesday 1am GMT / Wednesday 12am ACT in Meta’s Horizon Worlds metaverse platform, and will feature a recording from the group’s finale show of its recent World Tour.
Now I just have to hope someone is surprising me with one of the best VR headsets for Christmas…
Clearly, Santa is just moving so fast that pinpoint accuracy isn’t exactly possible. Despite NORAD having a rocky start to the day, its Santa tracker seems to have stabilized now.
Given it’s fuelled by satellite rather than mystical internet powers, we tend to put a bit more stock into NORAD’s tracking abilities, which currently sees Santa flying over Iran. Google, on the other hand, only just has Santa over Turkmenistan.
If you’ve got an Alexa speaker at home, there are lots of ways you can get in the festive spirit – even if that’s just by getting your grocery shopping done without ever needing to leave the house. You can even use your smart devices to help you track Santa – though I’d like to think we’re doing a fantastic enough job of that for you here.
We’ve been well impressed this year with the efforts of smart home brands to amp up the festive feelings – in particular, Nanoleaf’s holiday string lights even managed to convert a lifelong Christmas-hater. It’s a real-life Grinch story.
According to NORAD, Santa has now made his way to the Seychelles, and up next will be Madagascar. Both sound pretty great for a relaxing Christmas break, especially if you need a break from the bitterly cold temperatures of the Nothern Hemisphere.
Not that Santa gets much time to stop for a chill-out, on his journey, of course, but hopefully he got to see a lemur or two.
One of my absolute favorite Christmas movies is actually a pretty recent one – Klaus, which was written and directed by Sergio Pablo. Pablo’s movie credits include 2D and 3D animated classics like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Tarzan and Despicable Me.
Klaus arrived on Netflix in 2019 and reimagines the story of the origin of Christmas letters, but not in the way you might think.
My dad hates Christmas, but this one even made him tear up when we watched it a few years ago. It’s well worth the watch.
Rudolf was almost Reginald
Yep, you read that right – Rudolf and his fellow reindeer almost had completely different names, and the red-nosed wonder himself was almost called Reginald or Rollo. Other names under consideration included Racer and Pacer, Flossie and Clossie and Ready and Steady – quite the departure from our beloved Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.
While Google still has Santa lagging behind slightly in the Middle East, NORAD just spotted Santa make his stop at the International Space Station (ISS). Of course, his sleigh is equipped with next-generation technology that not only allows artificial gravity and oxygen supplies, but also the abilty to quickly nip in and out of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Pretty impressive stuff, but it’s no surprise – astronauts deserve just as much Chrismas cheer as the rest of us. With its international staff observing the holidays at different times according to both the Julian and Gregorian calendar, Christmas is often celebrated multiple times on the ISS.
NORAD says Santa’s travels have taken him over Kenya now, where lots of locals have been travelling to make sure they are with their families over the Christmas period. One of Kenya’s languages is Swahili so Santa will make sure to call ‘Heri ya Krismasi!’ or ‘Krismasi Njema’ down from his sleigh between present stop-offs.
On Christmas Day in Kenya, one of the most popular traditional dishes to be enjoyed with family members is Nyama Choma or roast meat. This can be goat, sheep, or lamb and is roasted outside on a barbecue and served with rice and chapatis. Hungry just thinking about it…
He’s made his way to Ethiopia too, and next up is Djibouti. Google seems to have gone slightly rogue – he’s off to Antartica now, apparently. Hope he’s packed his thermals.
“Jingle Bells” might be one of the most iconic Christmas songs in history, but more than that, it’s a treasure trove of trivia.
First off, and I hope you’re sitting down for this one – it was originally a Thanksgiving song. I hear you, it’s a shock to me too. It was originally composed back in the mid-19th century by James Lord Pierpont for his church’s Thanksgiving concert before it was re-released later in 1857 with a more Christmassy title and overall vibe.
Fast forward over 100 years and “Jingle Bells” takes the biscuit once again; in the lead-up to Christmas in 1965, astronauts Wally Schirra and Tom Stafford relayed an unusual sighting to Mission Control from aboard the Gemini 6 spacecraft. Apparently, an “unidentified flying object” was poised to enter Earth’s atmosphere, moving in a polar orbit from north to south. Injecting a touch of humor into the situation, they abruptly broke the tension by serenading Mission Control with a rendition of “Jingle Bells” accompanied by Schirra on a compact harmonica, and Stafford with a handful of small sleigh bells.
We hope the astronauts on board the ISS are having a hearty sing-along now Santa’s made his rounds.
NORAD says Santa is now flying over Ukraine, and while Christmas might look very different there from what most families are used to these days, the rich festive culture of the country speaks to its people’s spirit.
While an increasing number of Ukrainian households are now officially celebrating with much of the rest of the world on December 25th, some might still observe the Julian calendar and celebrate on January 7th, with the 6th being Christmas Eve. Similar to other Slavic countries, some in Ukraine refer to Santa as Old Man or Father Frost.
Upon the appearance of the first star in the night sky, some Ukrainian families will gather to enjoy a meal on Christmas Eve – the Sviata Vecheria (Holy dinner), which has 12 courses to represent the apostles of Jesus. Also, fun fact: Carol of the Bells is actually based on a traditional Ukranian koliadky (Christmas Carol) called “Shchedryk”.
Ham or turkey? Our survey says…
We all love a festive feast, though in my family, we actually have a cheese fondue with steak on Christmas because my parents aren’t a fan of traditional roasts and trimmings. However, it’s divisive across Western traditions which protein should take center stage – turkey or ham?
Well, according to Google Trends, search traffic for both spikes massively around Christmas time. In the US, turkey wins by a mile (considering Thanksgiving is so soon beforehand, that’s a little surprising to me) and in the UK it’s much the same. Australia, however, seems to prefer ham – although interestingly there seemed to be a brief turkey mania in February this year. I’ll have to ask our AU Managing Editor Sharmista Sarkar about that one…
A few other choices
If you’re not a fan of Norad or Google, then you’ve got the choice of a few others. They’re not as fully-featured or comprehensive with the mini-games, but they are still charming in their own right.
Santa Update – this is a close third place option to Google and NORAD, taking data from North Pole Flight Command. There are a few little games to play and activities make it a fun event. I’m a big fan of the Naughty List confessional, to get you off the list.
North Pole Flight Command – an alternative map of Santa activities, you can also get texts from where he is around the globe if you subscribe.
Santa Tracker App – a fairly rudimentary app that mimics Google in a lot of ways – is free to start with interstitial ads. Doesn’t seem perfect in terms of tracking around the world at the moment, and rather glitchy in places – but has a few fun features.
Email Santa – a site that’s been running since 1999, it’s got a very ‘homemade’ feel around it – as in, it’s a site that takes cues from the early part of the century in terms of web design. It’s got some charming features – the headline being the chance to enter some information into fields and get your own personalized letter from Santa in minutes – as well as a new AI chat feature, although that’s still a little bug-filled.
Sky TV (UK only) – if you hit the home button as a Sky user, you’ll see a live map of the route Santa is taking. You can also use the voice function to just ask ‘Where’s Santa?’
Ooer, not sure how I feel about Greece’s traditional Christmas beliefs. Santa’s just stopped there, according to NORAD, and apparently, mischeivous creatures called ‘kallikántzari’ venture out from the literal center of the earth during Christmas. These little gremlins spend the season hiding in people’s houses to play tricks, eat Christmas treats and generally give unsuspecting victims a good spook – unless you complete an anti-hobgoblin ritual like the natives. Smart.
We have Greece to thank for Santa Claus too – St Nicholas was a 4th-century Greek bishop from Myra (modern-day Turkey). Tales of his famously charitable acts and gift-giving spread across the European continent – and the rest of the world – in the centuies that followed. He’s doing pretty well delivering all these presents, given he’s approximately 1600 years old.
While Google has Santa traipsing his way down from Finland to Africa, NORAD is still ahead, spotting him flying over Egypt.
Technically, Santa’s way too early for eager children awaiting his visit – most Christmas observers in Egypt actually celebrate on 7th of January on Coptic Christmas Day. Sweet biscuits called Kahk are exchanged, and a popular option for Christmas Dinner is Fatta, an indulgent meal consisting of bread, rice, garlic, and boiled lamb meat.
Time for more fun facts! Let’s talk tinsel – no, not the affordable plastic kind we’re all used to, but the original tinsel.
Invented way way back in 1610 in Germany, tinsel used to be spun from genuine silver, hammered into small fragments and adorned around the home as a very premium decoration.
It’s had a pretty storied history since, too. While it’s not so fashionable these days, it was once banned in the US, as it contained lead – yikes! Not quite the Christmas gift people were expecting.
Google’s currently got Santa in Turkey, which puts him about an hour behind NORAD’s tracker, where he’s presently flying over South Africa. Despite this apparent lag, NORAD says Santa has only delivered 3.25bn presents versus Google’s 4.25bn. The mystery only continues – but I suppose magic is pretty hard to quantify with algorithms.
It’s been a while since we checked in with ChatGPT – let’s see what fun festive facts it has in store.
I asked for its best Christmas trivia, and it decided to inform me of the origin of candy canes.
“One fascinating Christmas fact is the origin of the candy cane. Legend has it that in the late 17th century, the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany wanted to keep the children quiet during the Living Creche ceremony. In an effort to remedy the situation, he asked a local candy maker to create sugar sticks to hand out to the children.
To justify the practice of giving out candy during a religious ceremony, the candy maker supposedly made them in the shape of a “J” to represent the name of Jesus and turned them white to symbolize purity. Over time, the candy canes evolved into the red-and-white-striped treats we are familiar with today. While the historical accuracy of this legend is debated, it adds a delightful and sweet dimension to the story of the candy cane.”
Germany truly is the home of Christmas, apparently. Stay tuned – we’ll be giving some more Germanic facts when Santa reaches Europe in the next hour.
While Google’s Santa tracker is still a fair bit behind NORAD (Santa’s only just now arriving in Sudan according to Google whereas NORAD has him in Benin), I can’t begrudge the tech giant too much – its festive activities are unparalleled.
It’s rapidly approaching bedtime for little ones across Europe, and what better way to send them to sleep than with an original Christmas story courtesy of the elves at Google. Ollie Under the Sea tells the tale of a lonely narwhal who wants to join in the festive fun. It’s lovely.
If you’re stuck for dessert tomorrow, we’ve got you covered. Last year, we tried this last-minute air fryer Christmas cake recipe and were mega impressed by the results. It uses many of the festive ingredients you’d find in the pantry around Christmas time, and as long as you’ve got one of the best air fryers, it should be a breeze to make.
In other news, Santa is now approaching Europe according to NORAD, and while he’s got a bit more of West Africa to cover in his next zig-zag, we’re getting ever-closer to him shooting across the sky in the UK, and the US is just a few hours behind – get excited!
Now, I’m a pretty big fan of finding creative ways to decorate my home around Christmas. My flat is way too small to host a tree, and as I rent it’s pretty hard to festoon my walls with lights and garlands.
Instead, I have to make use of what I’ve got, which is why I adore this guide for how to mod your mechanical keyboard to give it the best Christmas glow-up from our wonderful ex-Software writer Daryl Baxter (who’s now Features Editor at our sister site, iMore)
Anyway, back to Santa. Google’s still stuck on Africa, but NORAD currently has him en-route to Venice, Italy. Imagine if he rode in a flying gondola? Fun, but less practical, I’m sure. A lot more rowing.
NORAD’s spotted Santa in Germany, which I reckon should be Santa’s second home at this point. As we alluded to earlier, many iconic Christmas traditions stem from Germany, from Christmas tree and home decorating to advent calendars and even gift-giving.
That’s right, Germany’s had a bad case of the Christmas spirit ever since the late 1700s, although many of the traditions were inherited from pagan celebrations of yore.
Fun fact: German poet E.T.A Hoffman published one of the most well-known Christmas stories, “Nutcracker and Mouse King” in 1816, which serves as the first literary record of a decorated Christmas tree.
Santa is heading to Scandinavia! Granted, NORAD’s already spotted him over Finland, but it’s time for Sweden and, I expect, Norway.
Norwegians have been celebrating all month with markets and merriment. And, of course, there’s plenty of feasting in Norway too. A long-standing Norwegian Christmas tradition is eating lutefisk, a dried fish treated with lye – or lut. It’s a bit of an acquired taste but according to Visitnorway.com, more than 750 tonnes are hungrily eaten every year.
He’ll see lots of cosy candles in windows as he makes his rounds in Sweden but these are no ordinary flames. The Advent Candlestick is a Swedish tradition of counting down the Sundays before Christmas. Every Sunday a candle is lit, and Swedes enjoy spicy mulled wine and eat gingerbread biscuits to celebrate, and leave Santa a cup of coffee for his troubles. Good job too, as he’s still got a ways to go! Gifts are traditionally swapped after dark on Christmas Eve so there’s already plenty of wrapping paper scattered around before lots of feasting tomorrow.
As Santa wraps up in Scandinavia, let’s turn once more to ChatGPT. This time, I’ve asked one of our favorite AI chatbots for some fun trivia questions, and it’s come up with the below…
1. Holiday Traditions: In what country did the tradition of placing presents under a decorated tree originate?
2. Festive Films: Which classic Christmas movie features a young boy named Kevin McCallister defending his home from burglars during the holiday season?
3. Christmas Carols: What is the opening line of the popular Christmas carol “Jingle Bells”?
4. Yuletide History: In what year did Charles Dickens first publish “A Christmas Carol”?
5. Seasonal Treats: What spice is typically associated with gingerbread cookies?
Stick around for the answers!
We interrupt this pop quiz with some NORAD weirdness. I just can’t wrap my head around Santa’s GPS – for some reason, he just backpedalled from Switzerland back across to Austria, which he’s already kind of flown over twice.
Far be it for me to understand the machinations of the most magical man known to humankind, but I must write a note to self to ask him next year during our annual FaceTime catch-up.
Google’s Santa tracker finally has him broaching European shores, landing first in Malta and now traversing Italy. Meanwhile, NORAD’s following his approach to Belgium after his stop the Netherlands – I hope he picked me up stroopwafel.
Anyway, here are the answers from ChatGPT’s pop quiz.
3. “Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh.”
“Bienvenue, Père Noël” cry the children of France as he soars across the French airspace – at least, according to NORAD. Google still has him in Italy.
France’s Christmas traditions vary a fair bit, which isn’t surprising given its size and multiculturalism. Some celebrate Christmas much earlier in December, with the North and North-East of France exchanging gifts on December 6th, which is St. Nicholas’ day.
According to the Saint Nick lore, three little children got lost and were captured by an evil butcher, Père Fouettard. Thankfully, they were rescued by St Nicholas rescues them – and that’s why he’s known as the patron saint of children. To thank him all these years later, French children leave a boot or shoe for him. Good children will receive gifts, and naughty little ones just get coal. Other families exchange gifts much later on January 6th in observation of ‘Thre Kings Day’, if not on December 25th.
Santa is sailing over sunny Spain right now, according to NORAD.
In Spain, people go all out and celebrate Christmas through January 6, the Three King’s Day.
Santa will be flying over a lot of nativity scenes constructed carefully across the cities and towns of Spain and hearing a lot of Spanish Christmas carols (called villancicos) echoing up from the ground. He probably will enjoy some flamenco rhythms influencing the ones over the south of Spain, too – good high-energy music to keep him jolly as he continues the latter half of his great voyage around the world.
Just like France, Spain settles down to a special Christmas Eve meal. This is Nochebuena, meaning ‘good night.’ A delicious sweet nougat called turron is an essential part of the tasty celebrations along with plenty of shaped marzipan treats.
Time for a present check-in. According to NORAD, which is a fair bit further along than Google at this point, Santa has just crossed the 4bn present threshold, whereas Google says he’s made his way through 4.9bn.
That’s the difference of almost one billion gifts. Hopefully, NORAD’s underestimating how productive Santa’s elves have been this year.
I was today years old when I learned that NORAD has a 2D mode, and for me at least, it is way easier to use. You do miss out on the fun animation of Santa in his sleigh, but the map is a lot easier to read and see where he’s heading next.
Anyway, he’s just dropped by Togo according to NORAD, then he’s off to São Tomé and Principe.
St. Nick might have just arrived in Ghana, but the celebrations here kicked off from the 20th so he’s a little late to the party. The good news is that the frivolity lasts until early January so there’s plenty of fun still to be had.
Christmas in Ghana is a full family affair, with adults donning costumes and handing out candies around the neighborhood while children decorate with paper ornaments. Just like Kenya, lots of people have been travelling from all over the country to celebrate the festivities with family members.
Ghana’s capital, Accra, is full of music festivals, live events and parties over the Christmas period and is fully decked out with trees, tinsel, and sparkling lights. What a great view for the big man in red!
Whether you’ve wished for the iPhone 15 this Christmas or just have a keen eye for phone photography, we’ve got some great tips and tricks for how to impress your friends and family with your festive snaps this year.
From AI-enhanced 3D capture to long-exposure apps, there’s a lot of incredible tools on offer outside of Apple’s native camera app.
According to Google, Santa’s still covering mainland Europe, with North and West Africa still to go before he arrives on my doorstep in the UK at 1:30 AM GMT. That’s way past my bedtime, which I suppose is exactly his intention.
However, NORAD reckons Santa’s headed to Portugal, after which he typically makes his way to the UK.
The UK has a rich Christmas culture, but some of it will seem pretty whacky and wild to onlookers. My favorite tradition to explain to non-Brits is Pantomime, (or Panto), which is a family-friendly form of musical theatre retelling a classic fairy tale with slapstick comedy, gender-crossing actors, and a whole load of audience participation. It’s weird, and just a little cringe-inducing, but it’s a great family day out.
We also call Santa “Father Christmas”, hang oversized socks called stockings at the end of our beds to be filled with gifts, and have a tug-of-war with cardboard tubes called crackers (which have literal gunpowder inside of them) until they rip apart with a “bang!”.
Well, I left the room for just a minute and there we have it – quick as a flash, Santa made his way down my chimney, laid out my gifts and WHOOSH, he’s gone.
I must remember to leave a doormat for him next year, the footsteps leave quite the mess for us to clean up every year.
NORAD’s now tracking Santa as he makes his way from London and across the rest of the UK, after which he’ll likely head to South America.
So, considering Google’s Santa tracker says he’s not here for a while yet, do you reckon I’ll get another round of presents?
Not to be greedy, of course. Juuuuuuust checking.
On NORAD’s tracker, he’s just finished his time in the UK and Ireland – thankfully, the Irish Parliament permitted him to enter their airspace a few weeks ago.
Santa is currently off the western coast of Africa, heading from Cape Verde towards South America, according to Norad. Google also has the big guy heading to Timbuktu in west Africa, so he should be heading across the Atlantic Ocean soon towards the southern hemisphere.
Santa is now in South America, heading towards Guatemala! Guatamalans bring the heat to Christmas, eating Guatamalan-style tamales, lighting firecrackers at midnight and dancing all night long – all while wearing Puritina hats. Sounds like a right old party.
Of course, while Norad has Santa over South America, Google’s search is still showing his path tonight over western Africa, as he right now flies over Liberia heading towards Sierra Leone. That Santa moves so fast, he’s like an electron. You don’t really know where he is, you just know the probability that he will be somewhere. And he probably is heading to your house tonight!
Well, in a surprise twist, the man from the North Pole is currently in … the South Pole?! Why would he be at the South Pole? My guess was penguins, which are not found up North. In fact, it looks like Santa is visiting all of the scientists stationed around Antarctica, starting with Palmer Station.
Santa is swinging back up north heading for Spain’s Canary Islands, according to Google’s Santa Tracker. Santa will need to watch out for Mt. Teide as he passes over Tenerife, as that volcano is snowy but still active! If you’re following Norad, Santa is now heading up South America’s west coast, moving from Chile towards Uruguay.
Our UK readers should tuck in fast because the Google Santa Tracker has the big guy heading to Edinburgh, Scotland. While our US readers may be tempted to make haggis jokes, in fact, according to the University of Edinburgh, a traditional Christmas dinner in Scotland consists of roast turkey, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, stuffing, pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon), bread sauce, Brussels sprouts, and gravy. So have a happy Thanksgiving dinner for Christmas, friends!
Our friends at Norad specialize in tracking the North American air space, and they say that Santa is over Greenland and heading towards Canada. Thankfully, Santa will have no problems at the border, because in 2013 Canada officially gave Santa a Canadian passport. Mrs. Claus was also granted Canadian citizenship, though neither Santa nor Mrs. Claus actually attended the ceremony in person.
Is the North Pole even in Canada? Only Santa knows for sure.
According to Google’s Santa Tracker, Santa is currently zipping fast soutbound across the Atlantic Ocean, heading to the South Georgia and Sandwich Islands near Antarctica. Captain James Cook was the first person to set foot on these islands in 1775, and they are a part of the traditional British overseas territory. Of course, according to Wikipedia, there are only 20 people in the largest town, so Santa probably won’t be there long!
Norad has Santa officially over Canada now, passing over Prince Edward Island and heading towards Nova Scotia. The big man got here with plenty of time to spare before Christmas, and should have no problem clearing Canada and the US at this pace.
While in Nova Scotia, Santa may be mistaken for somebody else. That’s because there’s a local tradition where people dress up like funny Santas and try to have neighbors guess who they really are. Sounds delightful! As long as there is hot chocolate afterwards.
The Google Santa Tracker has Santa leaving the Falkland Islands and heading for the southern tip of South America. Look out Chile, here come Santa! In Chile, Christmas Eve is a time for a big feast with families and once again, roast turkey is probably on the menu. In Chile tonight is “La Noche Buena,” and we hope everyone is having a fantastic time! Don’t look for Santa, he doesn’t like to be seen.
According to Norad, Santa is crossing the hemispheres. After dipping down quickly into South America, Santa is buzzing back up past Ecuador as he chases the Earth’s steady rotation, fighting against time to deliver all of the packages on board. Norad estimates Santa has delivered more than 5,000,000 gifts by now, so hopefully you got what you wanted, because Santa doesn’t use tracking.
According to Norad, it’s snowing in the Caribbean!? Santa is passing over Cuba and heading towards the southern US! Making his rounds north to south, east to west, Santa is heading to the Bahamas first, then he should hit the mainland US. In the Bahamas they love to have some seafood for Christmas dinner, but the main course might be turkey, just like lots of other places Santa has visited tonight. Have fun, everyone!
Google has Santa over the Caribbean with its Santa Tracker as well, and Santa seems to be having a blast in Saint Lucia, on his wait north! Hopefully we’ll see Santa here in the US soon, but take your time, big guy! We know the weather is much better down south this time of year.
According to Norad, Santa is in South Carolina. Santa is heading towards Myrtle Beach, passing over Columbia now. In southern Carolina, kids might get an orange or a lemon in their stocking, along with other gifts and presents, as a uniquely Carolina tradition. We expect Santa will be turning left any minute now to hit North Carolina next.
Over on Google’s Santa Tracker, Santa has skipped the US entirely and headed straight from the Caribbean to Greenland, which makes sense if Santa’s route is now being planned by Google’s Bard AI? Anyway, it looks like Santa has come to his senses and is finally heading back to the place that matters, the U S of A! Hey Santa, bring us our presents! We’ve been naughty and nice!
I’m gonna be honest, Google’s Santa Tracker is playing it fast and loose with Santa’s location, and it doesn’t make much sense to me, but I’m an American and I’m inclines to believe that Santa is simply saving the best for last. Santa has jumped from Canada back down to Caracas Venezuela, without touching down on US soil. Is there a trade embargo under way? Are there visa problems we don’t know about? We’ll be tracking Google’s Santa Tracker until Santa show up on American soil. Until then, stay tuned…
Santa is headed to Bolivia, according to the Google Santa Tracker. In Bolivia, folks will be gathered tonight for the Misa de Gallo (Mass of the Rooster), so called because it lasts until very early in the morning, when the rooster wakes up with the sun. In Bolivia, it’s summer time, so Christmas is celebrated with cold drinks, not hot chocolate.
I’m here in our US TechRadar HQ in New York City, and I see that Santa will be heading my way soon, so I better go to sleep so he doesn’t catch me peeping. A friend of mine tells me that in Germany, if Santa catches you awake, he spits tobacco juice in your eye. Maybe my friend’s Dad was just mean. In any case, this is my last Santa Tracker for the night, everybody.
Norad shows Santa over Maine, and since it’s Norad’s job to track US airspace, I’m going to believe them. Santa is bouncing north and south among the continents, trying to deliver all of his presents before Christmas Day, and it looks like he is on track to have all of those packages stuffed under trees just in time.
We’ll see you all tomorrow when it’s time to unwrap. Go to sleep, and no peeking!