You’re probably already familiar with the idea that, if Santa were real, the only way he would realistically be able to deliver gifts to every child in one night would be to travel at a significant fraction of the speed of light — 5,083,000 mph, to be precise — a speed that would cause his reindeer, sleigh and everything else in his immediate vicinity to disintegrate into a festive red mist almost instantaneously. But did you know there are even more jaw-dropping numbers once you start really investigating Santa? It’s true, and I shall prove it using what I am calling “Christ-math,” because I suck.
Now, there are many silly technical details you could dispute with Santa. His workshop at the North Pole, for example, is highly unrealistic whichever way you slice it: Unlike the South Pole, which sits atop the continent of Antarctica, there’s no land at the North Pole — it’s just a floating ice sheet that grows and shrinks by as much as half between winter and summer. This being the case, it’s fair to say that Santa might find it tricky to locate a place stable enough to build an industrial toy factory.
But what I want to get into here specifically is Santa’s annual calorie count. Santa, as you may know, appreciates some cookies and a glass of milk after he’s forced his way down your chimney (a feat most likely achieved, according to contortionist Jonathan Burns, by donning a spandex bodysuit, then sliding down feet first, facing the direction of the fireplace, with his arms above his head, then limboing his way out at the bottom). But there are two billion children in the world, and with a global average of 3.5 kids per household, that means Santa has to visit around 571 million homes on Christmas Eve.
Now, yes, not all households celebrate Christmas, and even across the cultures that do, not everyone offers Santa cookies (British kids, for example, put mince pies by the fireplace, while little ones in Chile leave out Pan de Pascua). However! Since most media depicts Santa as delivering toys to all the children of the world, that’s what we’re going with, and we’re also sticking with milk and cookies because otherwise we’ll be here all night.
To continue! If Santa eats two cookies and guzzles down a tumbler of cow juice in every one of these 571 million homes, that ends up with Santa consuming an awe-inspiring 148 billion calories in a single night. That’s about 70 million times the recommended daily intake, which puts him squarely in the cosmic-level tier of Absolute Units.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Surely, you say, Santa has some kind of magical ability to spread these calories out throughout the year? After all, in the bleak wasteland of the North Pole, you posit, with little access to any kind of vegetation or other forms of nourishment, Santa will have subsisted for most of the year on little more than salted reindeer jerky. And while reindeer meat is good for you — low in fat and packed with B-12, omega-3, omega-6 and essential fatty acids — he’s going to need a little extra subcutaneous fat to see him through those bitterly cold, minus-40-degree nights.
You present an interesting hypothesis, and I congratulate you! However, you are still wrong: Even assuming we take Santa’s mega-calorie count and spread it over a full calendar year, it still comes in at a whopping 405,479,452 calories per day, or a good deal more than 405 million calories over the recommended daily allowance. Santa: He dead.
“Aha!” you cry. “But surely he can jog that off?”
Well… sure. He could. But it’s gonna take a while. Santa’s generally depicted as a short, tubby fellow, and as such would likely burn around 151 calories per mile, jogging at a leisurely six miles per hour. Unfortunately, to burn off 148 billion calories, he’d need to jog roughly 980 million miles — that’s nearly 40,000 times around the Earth, or over 2,000 return trips to the moon. At six miles per hour, that’d take him a smidge under 19,000 years, which doesn’t leave him a lot of time to get the sleigh ready for next Christmas.
Speaking of sleighs, spare a thought for the reindeer, too: If every household also leaves out a carrot (and they do not! In many countries, hay is more traditional), even if every carrot is shared between six reindeer, that’s still nearly four billion calories per reindeer. They wouldn’t be doing much dashing and dancing after that.
All in all, Santa might want to rethink his Christmas Eve snack game if he wants to continue to fit into his fluffy red pants. Plus, there’s really only room for one absurdly thicc Christmas icon, and that role is already very well filled indeed.