Christmas is coming, and as usual, businesses have already begun getting you into the spirit of things by bedecking their stores with plastic snowflakes and portly Santa Claus figures. As we all know, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ and wasn’t always so consumeristic. According to Saint Augustine, Jesus chose the shortest day of the year, so symbolically he was lifting up mankind from the bottom. While people – both Pagan and Christian alike – have been celebrating the winter solstice for thousands of years, it’s thought the traditional feast, dancing, drinking and gift exchanging at Christmas really took off in the 13th and 14th centuries. But where does the big fat man dressed in a red and white suit come in? That’s what we’ll find out, in today’s episode of the Infographics Show, Can Santa Actually Deliver All the Presents on Christmas?
First of all, who is Santa? The man behind the Santa Claus story was called St. Nicholas, a fourth century Bishop who came from what we now call Turkey. He was a bit of a silver spoon child because his parents were well off, but with his cash he fed the poor and was generally a very nice guy. He is famed with secretly dropping off gifts (money or gold) to a household of three young girls and her parents via the chimney so that the occupant, the father, would have money for a dowry. That windfall meant his daughters could get married and didn’t have to become prostitutes. Guess where the gold or money fell? Into a stocking that was drying by the fireplace. How he got the name Santa Claus is thought to be from the Dutch word for St. Nicolas “SinterKlaas”.
Father Christmas was mostly made-up by the English, who then passed on the tradition to everyone else in the English speaking world. It’s thought that his red and white suit, his ruddy and portly appearance, and the dubious fact he lives at the North Pole, came from a man named Thomas Nast who published 33 illustrations in Harper’s Weekly in 1863. In fact, the man and myth were popularized mostly by American authors and artists in the mid-19th and early 20th century. Reindeer were introduced in Clement C. Moore’s 1823 poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” It names all the reindeer, and now we usually call that poem, “The night before Christmas”. There is also some controversy over who wrote it. It’s a widely held belief that the Coca-Cola Company was behind the modern day creation of Santa, but the company only helped propagate the myth by using Santa as an advertising gimmick.
Ok, now that we know who Santa is, or isn’t, let’s get down to some hard facts. Let’s take it for granted that at some point in your young life you were naïve and egocentric enough to believe that some fat, jolly guy, who, due to his weight and heavy lifting routine probably suffered from diabetes and chronic lumbago, took the time and risked his life to deliver an IPod, a mountain bike, and a giant tin of Cadbury’s mini eggs to your house. He wasn’t so kind to your parents, who between them got a hairdryer and a pair of golf shoes. He would have secretly come down the chimney, but as you don’t have one, he just let himself in the house while you were all sleeping or shot the gifts from his overburdened sleigh. On that busy night, he’d traversed the planet, bearing the cold winds of the Scottish Highlands and the searing heat of the mexican beaches.
To find out what kind of job Santa Claus would have on his hands, we need to know who he would be delivering gifts to. It’s unlikely that Tibetan monks or tribes deep in the Bolivian rainforests make orders at Christmas. However, according to Pew Research, while 96 percent of Christians celebrate Christmas, in 2016, 81 percent of non-Christians also celebrated Christmas. That included Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, etc. If you take a vacation this year in mostly non-Christian countries such as India, Thailand or China, you will still see images of Santa, fake snow, and Christmas trees adorning malls. With this in mind, it’s quite difficult, we mean impossible, to ascertain the correct number of houses Santa will have to visit. Let’s say for now in the spirit of Christmas that all kids will be getting a visit this year.
Out of the world’s 7.6 billion population there are approximately 1.9 billion people under the age of 15. 15 might be a little old in the tooth for Santa, but kids will believe anything they read on the Internet these days, and we are telling them Santa is real.
If Santa did indeed have to traverse the globe, he’d probably do it in around 32 hours. He could travel from East to West, thereby maximizing his nighttime. The total area of the world is 196.940 million sq. miles (510.072 million sq. km), but the water area is 139.434 million sq. miles (361.132 million sq. km). The actual land area is 57.506 million sq. miles (148.94 million sq. km). Santa would, of course, have to cross over water, but he wouldn’t be spending his time dropping off many gifts there except for the odd ship that is carrying kids. Assuming he was travelling around the entire world in 32 hours, he’d have to go at a speed of about 1,800 miles per second (10,703,437.5 kph). He’d have to have some kind of colostomy bag, but with all the milk and booze he’d be drinking, he’d probably just spray it over your house. If we can believe he can fly that fast, then we can believe he has some kind of automated system which fires off gifts to houses as he passes above them at high speed. Climbing down chimneys is just nonsense; of course Santa uses some kind of artificial intelligence for swift delivery.
The problem, though, is the weight. In 2016 Sony reported holiday sales of Playstation 4 of 5.7 million units, as well as 35.9 million games. That’s some sack Santa has. We can’t say what Santa will be carrying, but someone else did the math if Santa was carrying only Toy Story figures. If he was delivering only Buzz Lightyears to all the kids in the world, he’d be carrying about 840,000 tons (839,999,999.8 kg) of those plastic toys when in the box. It would also take about 5,600,000 reindeer to pull those toys. As kids will no doubt get more than this, we’ll just have to say Santa invokes some of his magic again. It’s likely he’s tapped into a multiverse where there is a constant flow of gifts from his warehouse to his sleigh. Artificial intelligence has penetrated a collective consciousness, and so kids get what they asked for.
If he can shoot out presents, he can pull up the stuff left out for him, which is traditionally cookies and milk in the U.S., a mince pie and a small glass of sherry in the UK, a beer in Australia, and lucky for him in terms of weight gain, some carrots in the Netherlands and France. Other countries have their own Santa gifts. We can’t find the figure for how many households there are in the entire world, but based on the population and average people per household, it should be about 2 billion in 2016. If he had one alcoholic drink in every house, say a small 25ml shot of spirits to make matters easy, he would be drinking one unit of alcohol per house. That’s 2 billion units in 32 hours, compared to the 14 units per week, or at the most 4 units a day, that many countries state is the safe amount. Santa can certainly hold his drink. His drink would contain 59 calories, and let’s say he eats a chocolate chip cookie that contains about 100 calories – British mince pies are over 400 – he’d be consuming 318,000,000,000 calories. Science tells us over 32 hours men should consume around 3,750 calories. We guess this is why Santa is fat. One of the famed drinkers and eaters in the world was a 7 foot 4 (225.5 cm) 500 pound (226.7 kg) wrestler nicknamed ‘Andre the Giant’. It’s said he consumed around 7,000 calories a day. It’s also said he would drink up to 14 bottles of wine at a time, and according to Hulk Hogan he drank 108 beers and then went to fight. His record was 156 beers in one sitting, or 1,872 ounces, or 14.6 gallons of beer. Still, the man’s got nothing on Santa Claus.
So, what do you think about Santa Claus’s workload? And at what age did you stop believing that Santa was delivering all the presents? Let us know in the comments!