Just how does Santa deliver all his presents in one night?
Posted on December 23, 2015
(First published in the Herald on 19 December 2012.)
It’s a question as old as Christmas itself: how does Santa deliver
presents to every child on the planet in just one night? Many people
have developed theories but only Santa and his elves know for sure.
I asked my eight year old. He said that Santa knows how to stretch
time so that he has enough time to travel the world in one night. And
when he stretches time, he moves very quickly relative to us, and that
is why people rarely see him and have never captured him on video. The
eight year old is big into science and likes to understand exactly how
things work so he has asked a lot of questions about Santa over the
I asked my four year old and she said that the reindeer can go very,
very fast. The two year just said “I don’t know”, which probably sums
up most people’s understanding of how it all works.
Santa actually has about 32 hours to deliver his presents. As
countries directly to the east of the International Date Line are 24
hours behind those directly to the west of the line, if Santa started
delivering presents at 10pm on Tonga, travelled west and finished at
6am in the Samoa Islands, that would give him a full 32 hours. But,
with about 2.2 billion children in the world, that is still a pretty
tall order. So how does he do it?
Dr Larry Silverberg, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering
at North Carolina State University, says that Santa’s advanced
knowledge of the space-time continuum, nanotechnology and computer
science helps him to complete his task. Dr Silverberg was head of the
first team of scientists ever to visit Santa at his North Pole
workshop when he travelled there two years ago. He explains that Santa
uses this knowledge of the space-time continuum to form “relativity
“Based on his advanced knowledge of the theory of relativity, Santa
recognises that time can be stretched like a rubber band, space can be
squeezed like an orange and light can be bent,” Dr Silverberg says.
“Relativity clouds are controllable domains – rips in time – that
allow him months to deliver presents while only a few minutes pass on
Earth. The presents are truly delivered in a wink of an eye.”
According to Danny Maruyama, a systems physics researcher at the
University of Michigan, Dr Silverberg’s theory is plausible. “While I
don’t know much about relativity clouds myself, I think it’s very
possible that a man who flies in a sleigh, lives with elves, and has
flying pet reindeer could have the technology needed to utilise
relativity clouds,” he says.
Ok, but what about all those toys? Dr Silverberg reckons that Santa
doesn’t actually carry all the toys in his sleigh, but that he has a
“magic sack”, a sort of nano-toymaker that uses a reverse
thermodynamic processor to create toys inside the children’s homes.
The presents would then be grown on the spot, atom by atom, much like
DNA can command the growth of organic material like tissues and body
And there’s no real need for Santa to enter the home via a chimney,
although Dr Silverberg says he enjoys doing that every so often.
Instead, the same relativity cloud that allows Santa to deliver
presents in what seems like a wink of an eye can also be used to
“morph” Santa into children’s homes.
One thing we do know for sure is that Santa is helped on his way by
NORAD, a joint United States and Canadian organisation that monitors
and controls the aerospace in that region. NORAD uses its ground-based
radars and satellites to help Santa take advantage of carefully timed
gravity assists from the sun, moon and Earth, which help him travel
faster and navigate more precisely. NORAD also uses satellites to
track weather conditions on Santa’s route to aid navigation. Rudolph
provides a good infrared source on which the satellite instruments can
focus – his bright red nose can be detected with great precision.
Huge improvements in weather prediction models are also credited with
helping Santa determine the most efficient route. “Numerical weather
prediction has certainly vastly improved in the past 20 years and even
the past 10”, says Joanna Donnelly of Met Eireann. “Santa is able to
make much better use of the jet stream and the strong winds in the
upper atmosphere to greatly speed his journeys between the
So that is, as far as we can determine, how Santa makes it around the
world in 32 hours. To those who just didn’t think it was possible, I
have just one thing to say: Believe.
You can follow Santa’s progress around the globe on Christmas eve at