Google Santa Tracker

Google Santa Tracker
Santa heading to Christchurch, New Zealand on the tracker of 2015.
Type of site
Santa tracker and entertainment site
Owner Google, Inc.
Website (US)
Commercial Yes
Launched December 1, 2004 (2004-12-01)[1]
Current status Active

Google Santa Tracker is an annual Christmas-themed entertainment program by Google, Inc. that allows users to track Santa during Christmas Eve and before that allows users to play, watch, and learn through little activities that are added daily from the start of December. Most of the year, Google Santa Tracker gets an average of 30,000–45,000 views, but around the holiday season starting early October, it increases to around 150,000, which is still fewer[2] than Google's rival santa tracker, NORAD Tracks Santa, which has operated since 1955.[3]


In early 2004, Google saw the NORAD Tracks Santa service and they said they "felt like it could be better for users to "visualize" where Santa is currently at". So, in 2004, after Keyhole, Inc. was acquired by Google, they followed Santa in the "Keyhole Earth Viewer" (Google Earth's original name) and they called it the "Keyhole Santa Radar". The audience was small due to Keyhole being a "pay-for".

How the website works

Starting at about midnight in the furthest east time zone, the map shows Santa alternating between traveling and handing out presents in cities. While he spends one minute in each city, the time it takes to travel depends on distance between cities. Santa travels approximately one time zone west per hour so that it is approximately midnight in every place that he visits. There are counters showing how far Santa has traveled, how long until he reaches the viewer's city, the distance from the viewer's city, and the total number of presents delivered. Santa has helpers with him, including the standard reindeer and elves, along with penguins and a snowman.

For each city that is visited, the first few paragraphs of the corresponding Wikipedia article are shown, usually giving an overview of the city. The website also shows photos with the city in the background and Santa or his helpers in the foreground. The temperature of the city is accurately given using data from The Weather Channel. Not every large city is visited; some large cities close to other large cities are skipped, while smaller cities that are nowhere close to any other populated place are occasionally used. Even when Santa is traveling, the counter showing the total presents delivered increases, but at a slower rate than when Santa is in a city.[4]

There are other pictures that are labeled "This Just In", also labeled in one section as being a live feed. These resemble photos taken on social media websites, and the photos are usually of Santa and his helpers doing various things, including Santa and his helpers imitating the cover of Abbey Road, Santa delivering presents, and Santa and an elf taking a selfie. The ten most recent of these pictures can be viewed, and a new one appears every two to three minutes. Users can also watch videos and play games.[5]


  1. McClendon, Brian (December 23, 2008). "Tracking Santa: the backstory". Google.
  2. Appelbaum, Yoni (December 24, 2015). "Where Does NORAD's Santa Tracker Really Come From?". The Atlantic. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  3. " Analytics". SimilarWeb. Retrieved January 6, 2016.
  4. "Google Santa Tracker - Stats". Google. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  5. "Google Santa Tracker - Live Feed". Google. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
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