But things are very different for today's youngsters, who can use the latest technology at their disposal to keep tabs on Father Christmas as he delivers presents around the globe.
In an inspired move, a flight-tracking website is letting users trace the movements of the big man's sleigh as Rudolph and co transport him through the night sky.
Flightradar24, which is usually used to check whether planes are running on time, is charting his progress for a bit of festive fun.
His sleigh appears in bright red, making it easy to spot amid the huge number of yellow planes swarming the skies.
It even lists his expected departure and arrival time at 'YLT' North Pole, and gives the flight number 'R3DNO53' and the vehicle registration HOHOHO.
As of 10am this morning, Santa and his reindeer had just left the western coast of Australia and were heading north over the Indian Ocean.
Youngsters will be relieved to know he appears to be running on time, with no alerts reported.
You can follow his progress at www.flightradar24.com/R3DN053/abcde1.