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Santa must be a top-notch logistics expert!

“Ho, Ho, Hopefully everything will arrive on time”

Year after year, Christmas is celebrated around the world, and gift-giving is an intrinsic part of the holiday. But have you ever paused to consider the challenging circumstances involved in getting all those presents under the Christmas tree in the first place? Santa Claus is generally thought to be a nice, slightly overweight, middle-aged man with a big bushy beard – but there is actually much more to him than meets the eye. He must also be quite the logistics expert; otherwise, he would never be able to transport this sheer quantity of presents over nearly inconceivable distances. It’s time to take a hard and entirely serious look at this accomplishment.

Known by various names and in many regional forms, Father Christmas is a familiar figure to many people, even across cultural boundaries. Whether or not you celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense – the “generous man” in the red suit with a bushy white beard and pointed cap is a “global trademark.” Some critical voices claim that he doesn’t even really exist. But setting this overly harsh perspective aside, one thing is certain: He has a lot to do every year – an insane amount, in fact.

Over 300 million delivery orders!

Millions of children gaze into the (generally wintery) sky at Christmas, yearning for a glimpse of Santa Claus and his magical sleigh, without giving a thought to the tremendous logistical challenges he overcomes on his gift-giving trip around the world. A sober look at the figures paints an unbelievable picture. Let’s start by considering that there are currently under 8 billion people on the planet, and 26% of them are under 15 years old. Why does age matter for our calculation? It’s quite simple: only children receive their presents from Santa. Grown-ups have to manage on their own, giving gifts to each other. Or were you hoping to hear something else?

In any case, there are more than 2 billion children under 15, of which – roughly speaking – a third are growing up in a “Western/Christian” culture. If we take this number (670 million) and assume a statistically classic two children per household, Kris Kringle has to bring presents to an astonishing 335 million homes.

All a matter of logistics

Can you imagine the lead-up to this event? Preparing all the presents, wrapping them, tying ribbons, filling out personalized tags and various other “value added services”... Even today, we still don’t know which warehouse management system the jolly old fellow uses up there at the north pole or whether his elves use barcode readers with a red and white striped candy cane design. It’s also unclear how he even knows all the particular wishes of those millions of kids. Rumor has it he relies on a special snow globe paired with an AI system for anticipatory logistics.
One thing we can know: the cold chain logistics for chocolate aren’t too challenging thanks to the climate at the north pole. It isn’t that hard to explain why no one has ever discovered any of his presumably gigantic warehouses on satellite imagery: the view from space reveals only expansive regions of snowy white. Very clever!

Huge distances under immense time pressure

But the logistics behind the presents and the inconceivable number of young “delivery customers” aren’t the only impressive part. The pace of the shipments is incredible, and the distances spanned by his route are nothing less than astounding: 29 percent of the planet’s 511 million square kilometers is dry land. Assuming the houses are evenly distributed (as a median value between urban centers and rural regions), the homes are an average of 750 meters apart. This translates to a “last mile” distance of over 250 million kilometers, which Old Saint Nick has to travel in an extremely short time.

"...delivering to 2585 homes per second calls for a delivery speed of about 14 million km/h. But that is over 11,000 times faster than the speed of sound. This doesn’t even include parking the sleigh or handling at the point of delivery. How does he do it? No wonder some people don’t believe he exists. This is unquestionably a magical level of performance."

Tight schedule and sonic speed

The greatest challenge is clearly the short delivery window. The 24th of December has only 24 hours, although factoring in the different time zones brings this up to 36 hours. Even so, the next calculation reveals the true scope of the challenge: delivering to 2585 homes per second calls for a delivery speed of about 14 million km/h. But that is over 11,000 times faster than the speed of sound. This doesn’t even include parking the sleigh or handling at the point of delivery. How does he do it? No wonder some people don’t believe he exists. This is unquestionably a magical level of performance.

Why does Rudolph’s red nose glow?

Magic is also the only way to explain how Santa’s reindeer-powered sleigh can accomplish its amazing feats. If each present weighed just one kilogram, that would make for a load of 670 million kilograms. This would take 10.1 million flights with a modified A-380 or a mere 4.4 million flights with a type An-124 aircraft. To put it another way, that would be three of today’s largest Megamax-24 class container ships. It’s a nice image, though: three gigantic ships piled high with colorfully wrapped presents.
Happily for us, Santa Claus is an environmentalist and does not use a vehicle powered by fossil fuels. The performance characteristics of his sleigh could perhaps be explained from this perspective by Rudolph’s glowing red nose – it must contain the power of a small sun… or perhaps it glows due to the heat of friction from the high speed at which the sleigh moves.

Giving brings joy!

However Santa accomplishes all these logistical feats, he definitely brings joy to many children, eases the Christmas stress of parents and – put simply – earns our respect. Let’s hope that the culture of returning and exchanging online orders without a second thought has not spread to the children who receive his gifts – since that would be worth an entire article in its own right.
Be that as it may, we would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy holiday season!

Fun facts – Putting the holiday in perspective


  • Someone weighing 75 kg would need to jog about 20 kilometers to burn off the calories from a typical holiday feast. And this doesn’t even include any snacks, cookies or candy canes. Whether you celebrate with a fondue, a roast or dumplings, the holidays offer plenty of enticing pleasures…
  • To power a 30-watt string of lights in each of the 335 million households from our case study above would take 3,350 wind turbines worth of green energy.
    Now that’s a bit of a breeze…
  • If Santa Claus used 1 meter of wrapping paper per gift, it would be enough to loop around the equator roughly 17,000 times. In other words, it’s a good idea to use environmentally friendly recyclable paper.
    Please note: Gift wrap with glossy coatings or glitter goes in the non-recyclable trash. So consider not buying it in the first place…
  • A two-meter fir tree captures roughly 20 kg of CO2 over the course of its life. If it comes from a local forest, so much the better! Plus: 4,200 tons of CO2 is bound up in the wood used to build the iLogistics Center at the cargo-partner headquarters. That corresponds to 210,000 Christmas trees.
    Yes, you read that right: even warehouses can be environmentally friendly.