Its that time of year, when little children are eagerly awaiting Santa Claus, perhaps a bit apprehensively too, as some might have a bit of a guilty conscience and fear that Santa might not come and bring presents this year. And then there are some nasty older kids who tease them and say things like 'Santa isn't real' - even as they know he is, but they say such things to try to make little children cry. But that is children, isn't it. At least they are kids and kids are kids. They are not mean.
But then we have some irresponsible adults who say stupid things on TV, like that Santa cannot travel to every home on Christmas Eve, he would have to travel so fast the air resistance would burn him up. Or that the size of the load of gifts is too heavy. Or like now, on CNN, that nasty travel and business man, Richard Quest has been saying that Santa's raindeer create more carbon than all of British Airways flights in a year. Come on, Richard, maybe if you flew in your first class style, you could burn that much carbon, but Santa isn't like that. Santa loves the planet and he would not create such tons of carbon! You just haven't thought this through, Richard!
And then we have those stories in America, that Santa comes from the North Pole. I know it makes sense and they can actually monitor Santa's flight on their early-warning radar - but that radar cannot see beyond the North Pole. It only looks like Santa came from the North Pole. In reality, if you sit in the USA, and look North, what is behind the North Pole? Finland! Santa comes from Finland, from his mountain called Korvatunturi, in Lapland, in Finland. Korvatunturi means literally the mountain of the ear. Ear mountain. Korvatunturi. Its not named ear mountain because it looks like an ear. It is named ear mountain because there is so much noise on Christmas Eve because of Santa's heavy travel, that you have to protect your ears. That is why it is called 'Korvatunturi'. Sounds funny, doesn't it. Korva-tun-turi. That even sounds like a mysterious place far up in Lapland where you need a raindeer just to move around.
And when Santa does fly to America, he of course is in a hurry, so he flies the shortest route - and children, if you take out a globe and look, the shortest route from Finland to any part of the USA does go... over the North Pole. That is why American TV news on Christmas Eve report Santa coming from the North Pole. Obviously their radar cannot see Santa beyond that. Where I come from in Finland, our radar sees Santa as he flies from Europe and heads to America. So we see the 'other side' but from our viewpoint, it looks like santa landed on the North Pole.
But yes. There are those who doubt the actual flight science. How can Santa take all those millions of gifts, to all those millions of children, in all those countries around the world, and bring all those gifts in just one night. The weight of the gifts is more than can be carried by the biggest airplane - that new giant super-jumbo Airbus 580. And if you think a couple of raindeer can pull that weight - at speeds several times the speed of sound - that seems quite unreasonable. Santa has been doing this for more than a hundred years, so he doesn't even have jet engines and certainly not rockets.
That is where the very first problem arises with the lay-people who do not understand Santa Claus as well as we Finns do, as we tend to all know some elves who work for Santa or have worked for Santa or have done some summer apprenticeships for Santa etc. I mean, Finland is Santa's home - we even have a Santa Claus amusement park near Rovaniemi where you can actually come and visit Santa (but not on Christmas, obviously when he has to do his travel). But yes, you can visit Santa any time of the year, even during the summer, and see his elves and take a ride with a raindeer-pulled sled etc.
Anyway, let me explain this weight-to-flight power ratio. Santa does fly to visit the homes yes. And Santa brings the gifts yes. But Santa of course doesn't carry all the millions of gifts from his mountain in Finland on that one night of Christmas Eve ! No. That is why he has his elves to help him. Its patently obvious. You all know, kids, how Santa sends his elves to spy on us all to see if we have been naughty or nice? Yes, those same elves also then bring gifts to Santa's secret storage facilities that he has in every country. The gifts are not all carried in one enormous sack Finland on Christmas Eve. That would be silly. No. Santa of course has organized the gifts well in advance, using his elves to help him. That makes perfect sense. Why else would he need so many elves? Santa only carries a small sack a short distance from the nearest warehouse of course. His elves help him, they keep the list of whose been naughty - and gets no gifts - and whose been nice. Then the elves have to make sure that Santa has the right gifts to the right people.
And this can be very complex and difficult when you think about Santa's job around the world. Take me, for example. My name is Tomi Ahonen. Tomi, is of course a man's name.. in Finland. But did you know children, that the same name, Tomi, is a girl's name in Japan. That is true! Now if the elves only give Santa a gift that reads Tomi, and they are not careful to make it the right gift, to the right Tomi, I might get a girl's gift! Or some very nice girl in Japan named Tomi would get my gift, a gift for a boy! She would not have a happy Christmas, would she, if she got a gift that Santa had intended for a 51 year old man, would she. No she wouldn't. She would not like to receive black mens socks now would she. And what would I do with a nice pink Hello Kitty pencil case intended for a schoolgirl?
You see why it is so important that the lists are well prepared and the gifts are all organized, locally in the countries. Now. With that, the actual weight that Santa has to carry is only himself and a normal sized sack (or sometimes he carries a couple of sacks in his sleigh for some trips, if its a big apartment building for example). He then again would have one of his elves waiting by the building to help old Santa, he can't really carry more than two full sacks of toys by himself. But he always recruits very strong elves to help him, they can lift as many as five full sacks of toys. I have seen one former elf demostrate that to me once in Finland. They are so strong, you would not want to try to arm-wrestle an elf. Especially not one who had been accepted to work for Santa Claus.
But yes. Now we have sorted out the weight and the localized gifts. Then there is the time of the night. How can Santa Claus visit all the homes of all the people on the planet, on just one night. Again, this takes science to fully understand. First there are two clever tricks that Santa uses. First there are some countries who have kindly agreed to move their gift-giving dates to other nights, not Christmas Eve of December 24. So for example in Holland Santa doesn't come until I think it was in January. And in Russia, Santa comes at New Year's eve. I am sorry, children, this is not my speciality as I am more of an expert on mobile phones, but I remember there were several such countries. So Santa really doesn't have to fly to absolutely every country in that one night. But it still leaves him a lot of homes to fly to.
Next there is a bit of bad news, dear children, that I have to confess to you. You children are Santa's special friends, and he does visit all children who (had been nice) on Christmas Eve. But us adults, if we live in homes that don't have any children, we have to wait until the next day. That is a sacrifice we adults without children have to accept, so that Santa has enough time to visit all of you children. And you know, we adults tend to have a bit more of an ability to wait for Santa's visit. We have seen Santa for 20 or 30 or 50 or 80 or 90 years already so we know he will come, and one night later is not really that vital for us. But Santa knows, if he waited one night for some of you children, especially the younger ones, they might become afraid that Santa would never come. So he always makes sure he has enough time to visit all of you children on Christmas Eve.
That means that there really are far less actual homes to visit. Like grandmom's house. Santa doesn't have to visit grandmom's house on Christmas Eve, he can come the next day, and grandmom and granddad will understand.
And then there is the other process of elimination, of course Santa doesn't have to stop at those houses where the children had been naughty. That is a lot of homes where Santa doesn't have to go visit at all, this year.
So when we take only those houses that have children, and of those homes only the ones with children who have been nice - the number of homes is quite reasonable for one trip to reach them.
After that it is mere logistics. And again, I have to bring some science in here, but the planet is divided into 'time zones'. When it is daytime in America, it is night time in China. When it is morning in Europe, it is evening in Australia. The time zones are in exact sequence, they start from the Pacific Ocean, and the day starts from New Zealand and Japan, and then moves West, next it comes to China and India, then to Africa and Europe, then to South America and last to North America. In America the day starts on the East Coast first, in New York and Florida. Then it proceeds to the middle of America, like Chicago, St Louis and Dallas. Then it moves West to Los Angeles and San Francisco. And the day ends in Alaska and Hawaii.
Here is now the logic of how Santa travels. He starts his day in New Zealand and Australia, then moves with the time zones to Japan, China, India, etc and also in Europe, he goes to Russia before Finland, then Germany, then Britain, before he flies to America. And so forth he moves always flying more West until he reaches Hawaii and Santa has covered the whole planet. But this means, if you do the math, that it is not one night of 8 hours for Santa. He gets the 24 hours of the full day, plus 8 hours, so Santa has 32 hours to deliver his gifts, and because of time zones, in every home he visits, it is night time. Remember when it is night time in China, it is still daytime in America.
And there is one more geographical gimmick. If you look at any normal map, it would seem like the direct route from Moscow Russia to New York City in the USA is directly over the Atlantic Ocean, and would fly right over London in England, right? Take a look at a map. Yes, a straight line - what is of course the shortest distance between any two points - from Moscow to New York would go through England and London. Now take out your globe again and find Moscow and New York and look which is the shotest distance.
Isn't that amazing! The shortest distance is actually over Iceland, over Reykjavik. And that trip touches Finland, Sweden, Norway before Iceland, and then again touches Greenland and Canada before coming over Boston to New York. Isn't that cool? The shortest distance from Moscow to New York is not what appears to be a straight line on a map. If Santa had used a normal map and flew over London, he would be wasting a lot of time, and create a lot of unnecessary carbon emissions too, Richard Quest!
This is what airline pilots learn in pilot school. And that is what Santa Claus, and his forefathers, have known for centuries. Because there is a shorter route, he doesn't have to fly the long way. He takes the shortest possible route. And you know what. If you count the shortest distance from everywhere that there are homes with children, to everywhere else - and I mean everywhere, Toronto and Miami and Paris and Rome and Instanbul and Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo, Sydney and Auckland, Timbuktu and Ouagadougou. If you actually calculate every possible connection - and trust me, children, I once had to do this for my geography professor at the university, it took me two weeks to calculate using a computer - the best possible place to locate yourself, to have the shortest possible distance to fly 'everywhere' is... have a guess where? It has to be on the Northern Hemisphere because that is where most of the continental mass is and most people live - the Southern Hemisphere has more ocean and Antarctica which doesn't have many children. And on the Northern Hemisphere it would need to be near the North Pole, but not on the North Pole. There are more people in Europe than North America so it has to be on the European side, and Asia would be too far. The exact geographically optimal point is located in Finland - on a mountain called Korvatunturi.
It is no accident that Santa Clause picked Finland to set up his toy factory. I mean, Santa could have selected any place on he planet. He would much rather wanted to live somewhere warm like in Brazil or Malaysia or or Kenya. But no. Santa - and his wife too - have decided to sacrifice and live in the cold, at the Arctic Circle - where they have snow on the ground most of the year, and it is never warm enough to be in swimming trunks - but he lives there for the simple reason, that it is the shortest distance to all children of the world. Thats the kind of man Santa Claus is.
And you know what? That is why Finnair decided to base itself in Finland. It had nothing to do with Finland. Finnair's management could have put that company into any country they wanted, but they decided that they want to have the shortest distance to fly everywhere, and then they asked the Finnish government permission to base their airline in Finland. Ifts a complete coincidence that Finnair's name starts with the same letters as Finland. Oh, they like to laugh, that is a common misconception yes.
And you know what, Santa and Finnair are so good friends, that Finnair is Santa's official airline - every year Finnair paints Santa's face onto one of its planes that it flies all over the world to celebrate Christmas. Isn't that nice. And obviously they meet each other often in the air, because they are both based in Finland, so the Finnair pilots know on Christmas Eve to be extra careful as their routes will be often the same as Santa flies. But luckily as Finnair now flies jet airplanes, they fly at a higher altitude than the raindeer-sled of Santa, so they rarely have danger of collision. I have been told by one of my uncles who used to work as a Finnish air traffic controller, that back in the 1960s, when Finnair still flew many propeller-driven airplanes, they often had to be very careful not to accidentially crash into Santa's sleigh during Christmas Eve.
So there you go. The real science about Santa Claus and Christmas Eve. Don't let anyone tell you that Santa can't do it, or that his weight is too much, or the distance is too great or he doesn't have enough time, or even that he would create too big a carbon footprint. That is all hogwash. If you really apply science to Santa Claus, you can see that it makes sense. And you know the proof is there tomorrow, because if you children have been nice, Santa will come. He always has. And that is the ultimate proof that Santa can do it in one night. Merry Christmas!