Expectation vs. Reality: Santa Claus

The Science Behind Christmas

How big really is Santa's grotto? And how long does Santa Claus have to visit each home on Christmas Eve? We've done the research! Watch our video to find out...

It’s now less than a week until Christmas Eve, when families across the world will be preparing for Santa’s annual visit. But how much of what we believe about Father Christmas is actually possible? The Online Money Advisor team has done their research on all things Santa Claus, to bring you the expectations versus reality…

We all have visions of a jolly man dressed in red flying his reindeer-driven sleigh through the skies, before stopping off at each home to deliver sacks full of toys, and chugging down some sherry and a mince pie. But how possible is it to get all of these presents out in just one night?

Explore the different areas that we’ve looked into:


Please note: All facts and figures are estimates!

Santa's Grotto

Where does Santa Claus reside for every night of the year, except Christmas Eve? Well, pretty much all of us agree that his grotto is based in Lapland. However, while images of a snow-covered wooden cabin spring to mind, the reality is very different indeed. 

This is the equivalent of 530 Heathrow Airports!
This is the equivalent of 530 Heathrow Airports!

If we take an average sack size of 0.48m² (taken from a selection on sale) and multiply it by the rough number of children around the world who are on the nice list (548,695,405, which is around 80% of those who believe in Santa), then Santa Claus would need a huge space of 26,355,362.4m² to house all of his elves and presents before the big night – that is, if he didn’t want to crush the gifts by stacking them.

This equates to 530 Heathrow Airports – not so cosy! When we take into account that the number of children in the world is set to hit a peak in 2057, Santa will need to expand his warehouse space faster than Heathrow’s third runway!

And, as if the size of the warehouse wasn’t enough to push Santa’s home insurance through the roof, with contents worth over £54 billion (£100 per sack), he’ll need some serious protection! This is roughly the same as the total GDP of Luxembourg ($69 billion).

To put this into perspective and as some food for thought, it’s estimated that ending world hunger would cost between $7-265 billion per year. 

We’re sure Santa Claus, like Mary Poppins or Doctor Who, has the capacity to hide his whopping warehouse within a cute corner of Lapland, but what about his almighty journey on Christmas Eve? 

Santa's Journey

We’re sure that Santa understands the complexity of his journey, so will choose the most efficient route on offer. This would involve travelling with the sun, from east to west, maximising the nighttime hours across the world (24 hours), plus the eight that we presume children will sleep for.

It'll be a long 32 hours for Santa!
It'll be a long 32 hours for Santa!

Assuming that each household has three children, Santa has 182,898,468 homes to visit in those 32 hours.

Although we imagine him struggling down the chimney, laying out our sacks and munching on a mince pie at each home, he may not manage this mean feat with a huge 1,583 properties to visit each second! Perhaps he has a Google Maps setting not available to mere mortals…

We’re also hoping that, for the sake of the planet, Santa’s sleigh is running on renewable energy. Worryingly, all of the toys delivered to children alone would generate 68.1m metric tonnes of carbon emissions. Then he has around 144m pieces of coal to leave in the naughty children’s sacks – could being better behaved actually be worse for the planet?

Santa's Waistline

There are 285 calories in a mince pie and glass of sherry
There are 285 calories in a mince pie and glass of sherry

Supposing that Santa finds the time to eat the mince pies and drink the sherry that we put out for him, he must spend the rest of the year on the treadmill! If each house left Santa one mince pie and a glass of sherry, then he would consume a total of 52 billion calories during his journey on Christmas Eve.

Taking the typical cost of mince pies and sherry on offer in the UK, these treats cost us a total of £146m. While we may feel that we’re doing something nice for Father Christmas, perhaps we should leave something a little healthier for him?

To make matters worse, Santa doesn’t only consume over 20m times his recommended daily calorie intake, but he also drinks more than 182m units of alcohol in one night – we’re glad the reindeers are driving the sleigh!

We hope that you’re all ready for Christmas and that Santa Claus has his elves in order. It’s a busy time for all of us, but – every time you feel overwhelmed – just think of what Santa has in store for him next week!

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The Online Money Advisor team would like to wish you all a happy and safe Christmas!

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!