We all know that Santa Claus is a magical, elder being who somehow makes his way to every home in the world to leave gifts for all the children (and some of the adults) who have been good this year, making his annual run every Christmas Eve. The question is not so much how he does it, because we’ve established it’s nothing short of Christmas magic. The question is how powerful is Santa’s magic that he’s able to accomplish this in a single night?
By Dec. 24, there are 8 hours and 11 minutes of daylight; coming just off the winter solstice, it’s not a surprise the day is relatively short. This leaves 15 hours and 49 minutes of time between sunset and dawn of Christmas Day, per hemisphere. In that time, Santa, propelled only by his airborne, nine-horsepower (more accurately, reindeer-power) sleigh, must deliver gifts to approximately 2.3 billion homes, assuming each one has at least one person on the nice list. He must then consume his traditional cookies and milk and make a swift exit, preferably without being seen.
Assuming he leaves the North Pole at sundown, Santa has 1,085,880 seconds to do his three-task routine 2.6 billion times. This means he has approximately 0.0004 seconds per house. The planet is approximately 25 million square miles, which means if Santa were to accomplish his trip in a single night, using the cover of night at about 31 hours and 38 minutes for both hemispheres, he would be traveling at approximately 793,650 mph (1,277,255 km/h).
This is more than 100 times the speed of sound but woefully short of the speed of light. This also explains why Santa is so hard to spot with the untrained eye; far before our visual cortex catches up to what’s happening in front of us, he’s on to the next house.
One of the best parts about legendary figures is the questions we cannot answer. One thing is for sure, though. Christmas inspires us to be better to each other, to love our neighbours as ourselves. As powerful as Mr. Claus might be, the more important takeaway to the cheer and charity the most wonderful time of the year inspires can move mountains.
– Agassiz-Harrison Observer.