In an age of information bombardment, it’s tricky keeping abreast of facts that matter. At this time of year, that’s anything Santa related.
Such is the proliferation of info, personalised Santa Apps, and festive films centring on the exploits of Old Saint Nick, how do you know what is real and what isn’t? Below are just a few examples of questions I’ve been tackling this Christmas…
• Why do the elves in The Santa Chronicles look different to the elves in Arthur Christmas and Elf?
Well, the ones in Elf are actors, while the elves from the other two movies are animated and therefore an artistic licence employed. Anyway, no one has actually seen an elf so we’re just guessing what they look like – elves are more covert than Santa!
• Can I have a really expensive present – like a pony?!
I’m afraid not. You see, Santa just deals with toys, not living, breathing livestock – mainly because he knows that anything with a pulse usually requires constant upkeep. Also, is it fair that one child gets a really expensive present and another doesn’t? It’s about balance, that’s why we give him a few options to choose from in your letter.
• How does Santa eat a snack at every house?
He burns a lot of calories jumping time zones.
• Can he bring back Nana?
The other day, my 5-year-old started whispering to the Christmas tree, saying “Santa, can you please bring back Nana and Grandad, but not as zombies, ‘cause Mummy would freak…” There are certain things that are beyond the realm of Santa’s expertise. This is one of those instances.
For the remaining queries – which are usually reserved for the particularly inquisitive – it’s best to bring it back to brass tacks using the one thing we can usually count on. Science.
I asked Dahnan Spurling, a Nanoscientist at Trinity College Dublin, for his input. Let’s face it, parents should at least sound like we know what we’re talking about!
• How does Santa get down the chimney? What might his suit be made of?
In more recent movies (Netflix’s Christmas Chronicles being one), Santa thumbs his nose, turns into a little fireball, and heads down the chimney that way… If there is no chimney, does he have a magic key or a swipe card?
“The answer to both I would hypothesise is similar. Santa is most likely able to shrink or otherwise squeeze through the tiniest of gaps, be they chimneys, keyholes or vents – along with his sack of gifts. I can only imagine his suit, and indeed his sack is made of some highly elastic and hard-wearing polymer or nanomaterial that shrinks and grows as required.”
• How does he know if a kid has been naughty or nice?
In Arthur Christmas, the elves have a gadget that scans sleeping children to see what percentage of them have been well behaved throughout the year. While this could be feasible, Spurling has a different theory involving an array of eyes and ears…
“I always believed that robins, dormice and other small creatures kept an eye on kids during the year. Many animals seem to have an intuition that isn’t fully understood by us humans, after all… Though, who is to say that if kids can send letters to Santa, that parents can’t send their own report to him also?”
• How does he get around the world in one night?
The widely used belief is that it has something to do with travelling in tandem with timezones and perhaps portal jumping?
“This is a tough one, and if I could give a solid answer they’d probably give me a Nobel Prize! Let’s break it down… Santa has many millions of homes to visit in one night. With the rotation of the earth that will give him 24 hours to visit everyone. Even with a full day, he will still need to travel incredibly fast. A consequence of this is that the faster you go, the slower time passes for you. By way of example; if you were travelling 99% the speed of light, time would pass over 7 times slower! So for Santa, the faster he flies, the more time he has to get the job done.”
• How does he get his sleigh and reindeers fly?
“Santa is clearly capable of considerable feats of science and/or magic. I would say it’s probably more likely his sleigh and the reindeer’s harness are providing the lift, with the reindeer providing the pulling power needed to cover so much ground so quickly. It’s a pretty mammoth task, so I would say that his reindeer are relying on everyone to have faith in them that they can pull it off once again this year. Accomplishing anything is really a question of motivation, after all.”
In short, Christmas Spirit is key. In fact, forget everything you’ve just read – there is but one word you could give to any enquiring mind – “MAGIC!”
Originally Published on TheJournal.ie