Tuesday, November 16, 2010


   On Christmas Eve, millions of children around the world will settle uneasily into bed, hardly able to contain themselves.  What vision could possibly dance through their heads, turning them into twitchy, restless insomniacs for just one night?  Is it the Sugar Plum Fair from "The Nutcracker" or the sugarplums from "The Night Before Christmas"?  Can sugarplums really do such a thing?
   Chances are the children are thinking about toys, Santa Claus and his team of reindeer--if the children have been nice this year, that is.  Jolly old St. Nick should be landing his sleigh on their roof sometime late in the middle of the night.
   Everyone has their own traditional image of Santa's sleigh, but could there be more to it than just a sled and a team of reindeer?  Although no one may ever know for sure just how Santa operates, here's a look at what some think are the most logical explanations for how the big guy in the red suit accomplishes all that he does.

   Sure, demystifying Santa's modus operandi puts us at risk of getting nothing but a big piece of black coal in our stockings for this year and maybe years to come.  It's all for the noble pursuit of yuletide knowledge.   After all, have you ever wondered how Santa's sleigh flies?  What about the reindeer?  And how does Santa fit all of those presents into one bag? 


   Rustic on the outside and state-of-the-art on the inside.  Santa's sleigh would have to be a marvel in engineering.  These are the main parts of the sleigh that would be needed to get Santa across the world in one night.

   The Sleigh's Interior:
   The front of the sleigh's dashboard would be dominated by Santa's own GPS navigator--the elves would map out millions of destinations before Christmas Eve, just to make sure Santa doesn't miss anyone.  The device would also have a built-in Naughty-or-Nice Sensor that keeps Santa updated on children's activities.  This is important, as even the most minor of naughty deeds committed within the last few hours of the 24th of December can determine whether or not a child receives a nice lump of coal.
   A Speedometer on the left of the dashboard would allow Santa to monitor his flying speeds.  On the other side, there would be a Radio Communicator --just in case the Mrs. or the elves need to update Santa with weather reports or toy inventory.
   For in-flight entertainment, there would probably be an iPod Dock --for all of his favorite holiday tunes, it may get pretty boring just hearing the bells jingle on the harnesses of the reindeer's.  There would also be a Hot Cocoa Dispenser somewhere convenient and reachable while he's holding the reins, and fuel for the reindeer, they can't go around the world on just one meal.

Transdimensional Present Compartment (The Bag):

   Ever wonder how Santa fits all of those presents into one bag?  Think of a transdimensinal present compartment in the form of a traditional gift sack, which would act as a portal between the sleigh and the North Pole.  However, we'd also like to think that Santa may have harness the power of nanotechnology and found a way to miniaturized millions of presents into one large bag.  But this information remains unconfirmed.

The Stardust Antimatter Propulsion Unit

   What ins antimatter?  Is it some kind of magical substance Santa uses to power his sleigh?
  Antimatter is the opposite of regular matter--the mirror image of normal particles that make up everything we can see or touch.  The big draw to antimatter is the amount of energy it helps create.  When antimatter and matter come into contact, they annihilate each other--breaking apart into tons of smaller particles--and 100% of their masses convert into energy.
   Although antimatter propulsion rockets are mainly used in science-fiction shows to allow spaceships to travel at warp speed, the possibility of designing one is very real--NASA is currently developing one that would get us to Mars within a matter of weeks.
   Santa's would have to be way ahead of the game, however, and we'd like to imagine that he has his own custom Stardust Antimatter Rocket.  It would be small enough to install in the back of his sleigh and fast enough to deliver every present to all the good children across the world.  Of course, if the rocket ever malfunctions, the reindeer would be there to back Santa up.

Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen!!

   Sleighs are large sleds or carriages used for transportation in colder climates--they have two runners on the bottom instead of wheels, making it easier to barrel across snow and ice.  With the aid of kinetic energy, a sleigh can easily travel downhill.  But once it plateaus, it needs momentum to keep moving and navigate any steep terrain--or in Santa's case, take flight.  But what if the Stardust Antimatter Propulsion Unit malfunctions?  Enter Plan B: reindeer, the engines behind the sleigh.

   What we know about these majestic creatures--aside from their steady diet of carrots--is that these particular reindeer would need wings to properly fly.  Paolo Viscardi, a flight physiologist from the University of Leeds, suggests that Santa's reindeer would need a 33 foot long wingspan in order to take flight, and a sizable team of reindeer would be required to lift Santa's sleigh.  An extra source of heat from the cocoa maker in the dashboard would send out hot air, acting like a thermal unit in a hot air balloon, giving the reindeer the extra lift that Viscardi recommends for optimal flying conditions.
   According to the famous poem "A Vist from St. Nicholas" by Clement Clarke Moore--and the disgruntled elf--a team of reindeer drive Santa's sleigh.  These are the reindeer we know as: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph.

   Of course, the most widely recognized reindeer is Rudolph.  Folklore has it that during a particularly foggy Christmas Eve one year.  Santa was unable to fly his sleigh due to poor visibility. It's posited that Rudolph helped guide Santa's sleigh through the bad weather with his bioluminescent nose radiating a red light.

North Pole Hideaway: Reindeer Training

   Based on what we know about reindeer and science, we think that Santa would have to have a state-of-art training facility in order to get reindeer ready for the rigors of flight.  A simple, idyllic barn in the middle of the Arctic would make an ideal facility for such activities.

   A comfortably large stable would have enough room to provide fatigued reindeer with a place to sleep as well as contain equipment such as flight simulators, treadmills and steering practice platforms.  Specially trained elves would be on-site to take care of the reindeer and guide them through their training exercises.
   This is also where the elves would make any repairs or additions to Santa's sleigh when he needs a little something extra.  The runners of the bottom of the sleigh, for example, would need to be examined pretty frequently.  Since Santa lands on so many roofs on Christmas Eve, the elves would need t make sure the sleigh's landing equipment can handle a few scratches and dents.

   And if Santa should need an immediate Christmas Eve repair, the head elf technician could climb through the transdimensional present compartment and fix the sleigh in mid-flight.  We'd like to think that Santa has been greatly influenced by some find of automotive racing, and that this procedure works very much like a NASCAR pit-stop.
   Without his sleigh, Santa would have a tough time getting airborne the night before Christmas.  Fortunately, elves, reindeer and technology could all be available to help, keeping St. Nick as jolly as possible.
   Milk and cookies could help, too, of course.  So don't forget to put those out.


   Pictures and displays have been used to tell Bible stories since the days of the early church.  Nativity sets are popular indoor decorations for many homes during the Christmas Holiday's.  In fact, the original nativity display was not motionless figurines.  It was a live display with people dressed as Joseph and Mary with live animals.
   IN 1223, St. Frances of Assisi had longed to see the nativity with his own eyes.  Therefore, he planned a surprise for the people of the town.  This turned out to be the first nativity display, which used real people and animals.  This eventually spread to Germany in the 1600's.  Traditionally the sets were displayed in the front of medieval churches and temples.  Eventually carvings of these images were done in wood or made out of straw by artists.

Living nativity scene

   The nativity scene moved to other countries like Italy where other materials such as stone and ivory was used.  Many Italians commissioned famous artists to hand sculpt or carve their nativity displays.
   When the town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania was settled in 1741, the people there brought this old tradition to America.  Originally, the nativity sets were call creche, which means crib in French.  Materials used today can range from paper mache, to glass or ceramic.  A background of a barn or a manger are used by most people today, but a background of  more natural materials, such as grass or rocks is also used by others.

A giant nativity scene
    A nativity scene generally refers to any depiction of the birth or birthplace of Jesus.  In Spain and some hispanic countries, this is call Belen (meaning Bethlehem in Spanish), In Argentina it is called pesebre, similar to Catalan (pessebre), and in Mexico is known as nacimiento (in fact, "pesebre'", "nacimiento" and "belen" can be used interchnageably in most Spanish speaking countries).
   Christian Nativity scenes, in drawing, paintings, icons, etc. or in sculpture or other three dimensional crafts, usually show Jesus in a manger, Joseph and Mary in a barn or cave intended to accommodate farm animals.  A mule and an ox accompany them, after the Apocryphal Gospels.  The scene sometimes included the Magi or the Three Wise Men, shepherds, angels and the Star of Bethlehem.  The traditional scenes that show the shepherds and Magi together are of course not true to the Bible story, since the Magi arrived much later (see Luke 2:7-16).