The presents are wrapped, the tree is up, and the stockings will soon be hung by the chimney with care. There’s only one thing left to do: track Santa’s annual Christmas Eve voyage around the world from your PC, smartphone, or tablet.
This year Santa’s departure time depends on which version of the Santa-tracking fun you’re following. Check out our explanations below for all the details.
It’s been 61 years since a misprinted telephone number in a newspaper ad led children in the Colorado Springs area to call NORAD predecessor CONAD, looking for Santa.
As usual, the fun begins at NoradSanta.org, where you can find games, videos, music, and stories to pass the time. Once Santa’s sleigh lifts off from the North Pole around 7 a.m. UTC on Sunday, December 24—that’s 2 a.m. Eastern or 11 p.m. on the 23rd Pacific time—the website will track Santa on a map and link to video updates on YouTube.
The Googley Old Elf
Now in its sixth year going solo, Google’s tracking site has been offering peeks at Santa all month with its own version of an Advent Calendar. Leading up to the official Santa tracking on Sunday, Google’s Santa tracking site includes a mix of games, videos, and educational activities using Google services. Google’s Santa tracking begins around 10 a.m. UTC on Sunday, December 24, which is 5 a.m. Eastern or 2 a.m. Pacific.
The site includes a few new items as well as many old classics, like the Elf Jetpack game and coding challenges. But I must admit I’m devastated that the Santa phone call novelty has been out of the lineup since 2016. This was my personal favorite holiday distraction, because it allowed you to send fun, Mad Libs-style phone calls from Santa to friends in the U.S. and Canada. I found Santa calls—while deliberately designed to be ridiculous—always brought a special smile to the recipients regardless of age.
If you don’t want to use Google’s website on your mobile device, the company is offering its annual Android app, which packs Chromecast and Android TV support so you can watch Santa on the big screen. There are also some Android app-exclusive games that you won’t find on the main website, as well as Android Wear support.
Chrome users can install Google’s extension to get timely updates without having to navigate to Google’s webpage. Santa tracking’s built right into Google’s search engine, too. Just type in something like “where is Santa” and you’ll see an update at the top of the results page.
Google is also adding some Santa magic to Google Assistant, the responsive assistant built into many Android phones and Google Home. You can ask Google Assistant “Where’s Santa?” or “Track Santa.” Google Assistant also has some Santa-flavored jokes. When you ask the assistant “Tell me a Santa joke,” the Jolly Old Elf himself will make an appearance to tell some real groaners.