1) No known species of reindeer can fly. But there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not completely rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.

2) There are 2 billion children in the world (persons under 18). But since Santa doesn’t (appear) to handle Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or Buddhist children, that reduces the workload by 85% of the total – leaving 378 million according to the Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that’s 91.8 million homes. One presumes there is at least one good child per house.

3) Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000 th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stocking, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household, a total trip of 75.5 mil- lion miles, not counting stops to do what most of us do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding, etc. That means that Santa’s sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second – a conventional reindeer can run, at tops 25-30 miles per hour.

4) The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming each child gets nothing more than a medium sized LEGO set (2 lbs), the sleigh is carrying 321300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting the ‘flying reindeer’ can pull TEN TIMES that normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine – we need 214200 reindeer. This increased the payload – not even counting the weight of the sleigh to 353430 tons.

5) 353000 tons travelling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance. This will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecrafts re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. The lead pair will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy per second, each. In short, they will burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and creating a deafening sonic boom in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa meanwhile, will be subject to cen- trifugal forces of 17500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250 lb Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by a 4,315,015 pound force. In conclusion, if Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas eve, he’s now dead.

Holiday Lessons: Staying Sober During the Holidays

I put down my last drink in September of 1977. All through the first three months of my sobriety I was obsessed with the thought of how I was going to get through the holidays without a drink. I was told to stay in the moment, to concentrate on the day at hand, to take my days one day at a time.

My sponsor told me that for an alcoholic a holiday was just another day. I was far away from my family. The many losses brought on by my disease were magnified tenfold at the holiday season, as was the pain of early recovery. The holidays were the true test of my resolve to stay sober that first year.

Experience is a great teacher and some of the greatest lessons in my recovery were learned at that time. I learned about The Fellowship of AA. By staying close to the people in my home group outside the meeting halls, I was able to associate with AA people throughout the holidays. We had Thanksgiving at the home of a newly sober couple. They invited several people who had nowhere to be on that day to their home. We all cooked, watched football, talked program and laughed over “war stories”, our common bond. After dinner we went to a meeting and then back to the house for dessert and more coffee and conversation. When I woke up late Friday morning I was surprised to realize that I had made it through the first of the three holidays sober.

Christmas taught me how to ask for help. As the day approached I used the meetings to express my growing anxiety about being alone on Christmas. As a result a new friend invited me to his home on Christmas Day. He had seven kids, very little money and was newly sober himself. Yet when the gifts were opened that morning there was one with my name on it. I was absorbed into his family and spent the day putting together toys, playing with his kids and of course going to several meetings. The previous year I had spent alone with a case of beer and a TV dinner. By asking for help I was able to experience the unconditional love offered by my friend and his family. Another holiday had come and gone and I still hadn’t had a drink.

New Year’s Eve taught me about getting outside of myself and helping others. In our area it was customary to have “alkathons” which were marathon meetings. The meetings were put on by individual groups each hour and offered food and plenty of coffee. My home group signed up for the midnight time slot on New Year’s Eve at Cambridge City Hospital. About ten of us piled into two cars early that evening. We stopped at a nice restaurant for dinner and then took the hour drive to Cambridge. This inner city meeting was held in a smoke filled, cold basement. There were several hundred people there and the speakers were frequently interrupted by the sound of wine bottles dropping on the floor. For many of the active winos the sandwiches and relative warmth of the hall represented the total of food and shelter in their lives. Their presence helped me to “remember when” and filled me with gratitude for my new found gift of sobriety.

I had made it through the holidays. I had learned about fellowship, how to ask for help and how to get outside of myself and care for others. Were these holidays “just another day” as my sponsor had suggested or were they, in fact, holiday gifts from my Higher Power?