Is Santa Real?

Portrait of happy Santa Claus holding Christmas letter and looking at camera

It’s a question many children ask as they get older. A question some parents do not feel prepared to answer. Is Santa real? As kids get older it is normal for them to think about this. As they learn about science and math and geography they begin to realize that the work Santa Claus does in just one night is astounding. In fact, is it even possible? Let’s take a closer look at some of the science behind Santa and figure this out once and for all.

The Prep Work

Set of isolated grunge Christmas stamps on white background, vector illustration

This is the easier side of the equation. With an army of elves that make toys 24 hours a day 364 days a year (yes, the elves rest on Christmas Day), the feat of making toys for all of the boys and girls in the world is doable. In fact, the elves have been doing this for so long that they have the perfect system in place. Santa’s workshop is a huge factory with elves lined up with an assembly line for each toy that needs to be made. Of course the more popular toys have more elves plugging away to ensure the demand is met. There are also some elves devoted to custom toys – things that are unique to a certain child. This is one of the coveted tasks among the elves, and it takes a long time to earn this job.

There are also many foreman elves who oversee each assembly line. They make sure the process is flowing smoothly and that everyone is doing their job correctly. Quality control elves also play a key role in making sure no boys or girls receive toys that are broken. No one wants to have a sad child on Christmas morning.

So while it takes a lot of coordinating and a LOT of elves, Santa’s team always manages to make the deadline and have all of the toys ready to pack up the sleigh on Christmas Eve. But what about the delivery itself? There is not a lot of time for Santa to get all of the gifts under all of the Christmas trees across the globe. To answer this question, we need to look to science.

santareal1The Big Night

Technically, Santa has a full 48 hours to deliver presents to all of the boys and girls around the world. He gets this extra time by starting his journey right at the International Date Line and traveling west from there. This allows him to take full advantage of the Earth’s time zones, and he needs all of the extra time he can get. Even he cannot be in more than one place at one time.

The next thing to consider is that there are about 2 billion children in the world. But Santa gets a break here, as he only delivers presents to Christian children. This reduces his workload to delivering presents to about 15% – quite a reduction, but still a huge number of children to visit. In fact, when we look at the numbers and the miles to be traveled, Santa would have about 1/1000th of a second to spend in each home. This means he has this small amount of time to jump down the chimney, lay out the gifts, grab a snack and hop back up the chimney and be off again. Santa’s sleigh must travel at about 650 miles per second (yes, per second!) to accomplish this feat. And let’s not forget that Santa’s sleigh also has to carry all of the toys for all of the boys and girls in the world. This thing is HEAVY! Can these reindeer really carry all of this weight? Is any of this possible? Well, let’s think about it.

We know that Santa’s reindeer are fed magical reindeer food that keeps them flying at super top speed all through the night. Plus, many children leave additional reindeer food out on their walkways Christmas Eve night. This extra boost of magical nutrition gives the reindeer the extra energy they need to keep Santa’s sleigh moving at lightning speed. Plus, as each house is visited and presents are unloaded, the sleigh gets lighter and lighter (and faster and faster). But the real magic comes with physics.

Christmas Reindeer on the background of a winter forest

As the reindeer gain speed, they actually absorb energy. As they reach the necessary 650 miles per second (courtesy of the special reindeer food), a huge amount of air resistance is created. This manifests in the form of energy – over 14 quintillion Joules of energy to be exact. What happens to this energy? Well, the reindeer use their antlers to absorb this energy, and they are able to increase their speed even more. In fact, the reindeer are able to travel faster than the speed of light. Amazing!

All right, so now Santa is traveling faster than the speed of light. This is where the magic of physics happens. At this speed, something peculiar happens with time. It actually runs backwards! So Santa actually GAINS time as his reindeer accelerate beyond the speed of light. He now has well more than 1/1000th of a second to spend in each house. He actually has ample time to spend setting up presents and enjoying delicious homemade cookies. So the proof is right here folks. Santa can absolutely have enough time to deliver presents to all of the boys and girls on Christmas Eve thanks to his super-fast reindeer and their energy-absorbing antlers!

So when your children ask you “Is Santa Real?” you now have the right way to explain to them how this man makes magic happen once a year.  Yes, Santa is real. Yes, he can deliver presents around the world in one night. Yes, he needs his reindeer to do it. And don’t forget to remind your kids to feed the reindeer along the way as this is an important part of this equation. Everyone plays a part in making this magic possible so be sure to do your part this year and every year to come!