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(NBC News) -- Besides the long lines and the tunes on the radio, there is one other definite sign today that the Christmas holiday season is here: 2005 marks the 50th year that the North American Aerospace Defense Command--or NORAD--has tracked Santa Claus on his journey around the globe.
That tradition started at least, in part, thanks to a mistake.
One look around Harry Shoup's home, you know the retired air force colonel loves the holiday season.
Harry Shoup, Retired Colonel: "I really enjoy Christmas."
But you probably don't know Harry Shoup saved Christmas back in 1955 as he supervised America's air defense systems at what's now known as NORAD.
Harry Shoup, Retired Colonel: "When the phone ran, I said yes sir. I thought sure it was General Partridge. But this little boy started telling me what he wanted for Christmas. I thought somebody's playing a joke and I don't stand for that stuff. So I though when I see who's laughing, I'll nail them good. He said, you're not really Santa Claus and I said, 'Ho, ho, ho... yes, I am."
A department store ad in the local paper accidentally gave out the command center hotline as Santa's hotline.
Harry Shoup, Retired Colonel: "It says kiddies be sure and dial the correct number. Isn't that significant?"
Kids and adults worldwide can now log on to track Santa’s progress leading up to Christmas 2005.
For a link to the special NORAD website click on the link above.