Santa’s workload has been calculated – he has just two minutes to deliver presents to Kiwi kids


Alf has stumbled upon the answer to a question that has puzzled him for as long as he can remember.

The question is: what exactly is Santa’s Christmas Eve workload?

The job obviously is formidable.

There are 728,000 or so kids in this country alone.

Not only must Santa get around the world in 24 hours on a sleigh driven by reindeer, but he must scramble up and down millions of chimneys with a sackful of presents.

And he does his delivering in the dark.

But in the many pictures of him, have you ever seen soot on his suit?

And have you studied the size of his sleigh, then asked how many presents it could actually carry?

Philip Bump, at The Atlantic, obviously has been puzzled by these things, too.

He answers the question about the workload here.

He has considered the number of Christian children in the world and the geographic distribution of those children.

And he has come up with these findings:

There are just over 526,000,000 Christian kids under the age of 14 in the world who celebrate Christmas on December 25. In other words, Santa has to deliver presents to almost 22 million kids an hour, every hour, on the night before Christmas. That’s about 365,000 kids a minute; about 6,100 a second. Totally doable.

Especially when you consider the uneven distribution of kids in the world. Santa needs to hit 22 million kids every hour. If Santa starts at the International Date Line and heads west, the first four time zones he passes barely contain that many kids waiting for presents. He’s already got three hours in the bank. Until, you know, he gets to Europe, which kind of breaks his schedule.

Among other critical bits of data in Bump’s analysis, Santa has just two minutes to knock off New Zealand.

Our country – with 728,906 kids – accounts for just 0.1 per cent of his global deliveries.

Alf was steered to the data by a post at Freakonomics, which noted Bump’s caveats: not everyone celebrates on Dec. 25; some Christians don’t celebrate, while some non-Christians still expect a visit from Santa, etc.

Overall, though, the Freakonomics commentator regarded it as a pretty good estimate and invited Alf to check out Bump’s Atlantic item to look at the the detailed graphs.

Alf took the advice and learned about the task Bump set himself when he decided to figure out how big a task Mr. Claus faces as he races west across the face of the globe, staying ahead of the sun.

Bumps explains his Methodology, noting that – among the challenges – no one tracks demographics based on longitude.

So, for every country in the world – of which there are a lot – I really needed to figure out the population broken down by age, religion and time zone.

Thanks to the CIA, however, Bump could readily determine populations by age and religion, and, by combining the two measures, roughly approximate the number of Christians for any given age group.

For the purposes of his experiment, people 14-and-under receive presents from Santa.

But not all countries celebrate Christmas on December 25.

Bump says –

Santa must love January 5th. That’s the day he has most of the night to hit parts of Russia, Georgia and the Ukraine before Eastern Orthodox celebrations on Twelfth Night. This calendar shift takes about 11.5 million kids out of the line-up on the 24th, meaning that on the 5th he can do a leisurely 800,000 kids an hour.

Bump further notes that not all Christians celebrate Christmas. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example.

Alf recommends his constituents check out Bump’s article and graphs.

Especially fascinating is –

A time zone-by-time zone breakdown of Santa’s trip west, delineating how many children Santa has to serve in each and how that compares to the total number of children in the region and the children awaiting presents in the world as a whole.

Bump’s conclusion: if anyone has ever deserved sainthood, it’s Nick.

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