Christmas Facts

Apparently 2001 was the year for unattributed emails. This is another holiday jewel that I received and wanted to pass on to you. These are just a few statistics to make you think a little bit about the holiday season.

Santa – The True Story

First The Statistics

1. No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.

2. There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn’t appear to handle Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total – 378 million according to Population Reference Bureau (circa 2001). At an average census rate of 3.5 children per household, that’s 91.8 million homes. For the sake of our ensuing calculations, we will assume that there is at least one good child in each.

3. Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). That works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1.2 milliseconds to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we all know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household, a total trip of 71.6 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours. This means that Santa’s sleigh is moving at approximately 650 miles per second3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth (circa 2001), the Ulysses space probe, moves at a mere 27.4 miles per second; a conventional reindeer can run 15 miles per hour, unless being chased by a pack of wolves.

4. The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized Lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granted that “flying reindeer” (see point #1) could pull TEN TIMES the normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increase the payload, not even counting the weight of the sleigh, to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison, this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the boat, not the person).

5. 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates an enormous air resistance, thus heating the chain in almost the same fashion as spacecraft reentering the earth’s atmosphere. As a result of this friction, the lead pair of reindeer will absorb around 14.3 quintillion joules of energyPer second. Each. In short, the will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the other reindeer behind them, and create a deafening sonic boom in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 milliseconds. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.

In sum, if Santa ever did deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he’s dead now.

The Rebuttal

There are a number of interesting facts above, contending that one Santa just couldn’t do it all. The obvious conclusion is this: FRANCHISING! This also explains why “Santa” is often known as “Santa Claus.”

As noted, Santa would need to make 822.6 visits per second, or 2,961,360 per hour. However, if we assume that there are 740,340 worldwide Santas (the exact number is known only to the Salvation Army), then each Santa has to make 1 visit every 15 minutes.

Roughly speaking this is:

  • 5 minutes for travel
  • 1 minute for sorting out that house’s gifts
  • 1 minute for chimney diving / lock picking
  • 3 minutes for gift arranging
  • 2 minutes for cookie eating
  • 1 minute for exiting premises and returning to sleigh
  • 2 minutes “slack time” for unforeseen events (most common: large dogs)

“Santa” is, of course, a very sought after title, and the geographic franchises to be the local “Santa” are subject to yearly adjustments due to population shifts. The changes in the legal paragraphs governing geographic territories in the “Santa” agreement are called “Santa Clauses”, a term which eventually has been commonly applied to “Santas” themselves.

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