This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
December 24 is the 358th day of the year (359th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are seven days remaining until the end of the year. This day is commonly known as Christmas Eve.
On this day in 1955, NORAD begins tracking Santa in what will become an annual Christmas Eve tradition.
According to NORAD’s official web page on the NORAD Tracks Santa program, the service began on December 24, 1955. A Sears department store placed an advertisement in a Colorado Springs newspaper. The advertisement told children that they could telephone Santa Claus and included a number for them to call. However, the telephone number printed was incorrect and calls instead came through to Colorado Spring’s Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. Colonel Shoup, who was on duty that night, told his staff to give all children that called in a “current location” for Santa Claus. A tradition began which continued when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) replaced CONAD in 1958.
On Christmas Eve, the NORAD Tracks Santa website videos page is generally updated each hour, when it is midnight in a different time zone. The “Santa Cam” videos show CGI images of Santa Claus flying over famous landmarks. Each video is accompanied by a voice-over, typically done by NORAD personnel, giving a few facts about the city or country depicted. Celebrity voice-overs have also been used over the years. For the London “Santa Cam” video, English television personality and celebrity Jonathan Ross did the voice-over for 2005 to 2007 and the former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr narrated the same video in 2003 and 2004. In 2002, Aaron Carter provided the voice-over for three videos.
The locations and landmarks depicted in some of the “Santa Cam” videos have changed over the years. In 2009, twenty-nine “Santa Cam” videos were posted on the website. In previous years, twenty-four to twenty-six videos had been posted.
NORAD relies on volunteers to make the program possible. Many volunteers are employees at Cheyenne Mountain and Peterson Air Force Base. Each volunteer handles about forty telephone calls per hour, and the team typically handles more than 12,000 e-mails and more than 70,000 telephone calls from more than two hundred countries and territories. Most of these contacts happen during the twenty-five hours from 2 a.m. on December 24 until 3 a.m. MST on December 25.Google Analytics has been in use since December 2007 to analyze traffic at the NORAD Tracks Santa website. As a result of this analysis information, the program can project and scale volunteer staffing, telephone equipment, and computer equipment needs for Christmas Eve.
By December 25, 2009, the NORAD Tracks Santa program had 27,440 twitter followers and the Facebook page had more than 410,700 fans.
563 – The Byzantine church Hagia Sophia in Constantinople is dedicated for the second time after being destroyed by earthquakes.
1294 – Pope Boniface VIII is elected Pope, replacing St. Celestine V, who had resigned.
1777 – Kiritimati, also called Christmas Island, is discovered by James Cook.
1814 – The Treaty of Ghent is signed ending the War of 1812.
1826 – The Eggnog Riot at the United States Military Academy begins that night, wrapping up the following morning.
1851 – Library of Congress burns.
1865 – Several U.S. Civil War Confederate veterans form the Ku Klux Klan.
1906 – Radio: Reginald Fessenden transmits the first radio broadcast; consisting of a poetry reading, a violin solo, and a speech.
1914 – World War I: The “Christmas truce” begins.
1924 – Albania becomes a republic.
1929 – Assassination attempt on Argentine President Hipolito Yrigoyen.
1939 – World War II: Pope Pius XII makes a Christmas Eve appeal for peace.
1941 – World War II: Kuching is conquered by Japanese forces.
1942 – World War II: French monarchist, Fernand Bonnier de La Chapelle, assassinates Vichy French Admiral Francois Darlan in Algiers.
1943 – World War II: U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower becomes the Supreme Allied Commander.
1951 – Libya becomes independent from Italy. Idris I is proclaimed King of Libya.
1953 – Tangiwai disaster: A railway bridge is destroyed by a lahar at Tangiwai, in the Central North Island of New Zealand, sending a fully loaded passenger train into the Whangaehu River, and killing 153 people.
1955 – NORAD Tracks Santa for the first time in what will become an annual Christmas Eve tradition.
1966 – A Canadair CL-44 chartered by the United States military crashes into a small village in South Vietnam, killing 129.
1968 – The crew of the USS Pueblo is released by North Korea after being held for 11 months on suspicion of spying.
1968 – Apollo Program: The crew of Apollo 8 enters into orbit around the Moon, becoming the first humans to do so. They performed 10 lunar orbits and broadcast live TV pictures that became the famous Christmas Eve Broadcast, one of the most watched programs in history.
1973 – District of Columbia Home Rule Act is passed, allowing residents of Washington, D.C. to elect their own local government.
1974 – Cyclone Tracy devastates Darwin, Australia.
1979 – The first European Ariane rocket is launched.
1997 – The Sid El-Antri massacre (or Sidi Lamri) in Algeria kills 50-100 people.
2003 – The Spanish police thwart an attempt by ETA to detonate 50 kg of explosives at 3:55 p.m. inside Madrid’s busy Chamartin Station.
* Christian Feast Day:
* Christmas Eve (Christianity) and its related observances:
o Feast of the Seven Fishes (Italy)
o Nochebuena (Spain and Spanish-speaking countries)
o The day when presents are exchanged and opened. Presents are delivered to children by Santa Claus, personified by an adult dressed up as Santa who comes knocking on the door. (Austria, Colombia Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and the Dominican Republic)