Santa is kind of like FedEx

Thing 2 (who’s 7 now) is having doubts and asked me the other day whether Santa Claus is real.

I asked him what he thought, and he said he wasn’t sure but that he didn’t see any way that one man on one sleigh could deliver all those toys to every kid on the planet in just one night.

I said that’s not how it works.

I explained that Santa used to deliver all those toys personally. back in the old days, when the population was a lot smaller, but that he uses a lot of helpers these days.

Santa is kind of like FedEx, I said. One truck couldn’t possibly deliver all those packages to all those homes and businesses in all those countries in one 24-hour period, I said, but a fleet of trucks and planes certainly could.

I said Santa runs the operation. He’s like the CEO. The toys are made by the toy companies, not elves. These days, the elves run the warehouse and oversee distribution.

The toys are delivered first to Santa’s headquarters at the North Pole and then, on Christmas Eve, they’re flown on big cargo planes from the central warehouse to regional distribution centers all over the world and then to local distribution centers, where the toys are placed on trucks and driven to people’s homes.

That’s a lot easier and a lot more efficient than trying to pile all those toys on just one sleigh, I said. The delivery truck drivers drink the milk and cookies and send any leftovers to the North Pole, where Santa shares them with the elves.

Thing 2 thought about it for a moment or two. “I don’t get it,” he said.

That’s OK, I said.

In this 1927 photo, Santa Claus (left) receives his pilot’s license from William P. MacCracken (seated) and Clarence M. Young of the U.S. Department of Commerce. PHOTO: Library of Congress

Flying reindeer can be scary

When our oldest was 4 and starting to wonder whether Santa was really real, we spent Christmas with my in-laws in Billings, Montana.

What’s neat about Christmas in Billings is that, on Christmas Eve, Santa’s sleigh buzzes Billings and other nearby towns around suppertime.

It’s a tradition that started in 1981 when a local aviator named Gerhart Blain hitched a light display in the shape of a sleigh and reindeer beneath a blacked-out helicopter.  Blain passed away a couple years ago, leaving his sons in charge.

So, the year we went to Montana for Christmas, Grandma and Grandpa told Thing 1 that if she went outside after supper and looked toward the rimrocks, she might see Santa.

She didn’t believe them, of course, but then we saw it, a speck of light flying above the rimrocks toward the house. Within a few seconds, we could make out Santa, his sleigh and a couple of reindeer, all outlined in lights.

I’ll never forget the look on Thing 1’s face:

Panic. Complete and utter panic.

“I’m not in bed!” she wailed, bursing into tears and trying to hide behind Sweetie. “He won’t stop!”

It’s OK, we told her. Santa’s just getting started. He won’t stop at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a few hours. You’ve got plenty of time!

“No!” she screamed. “He won’t stop! I’m not in bed!”

We finally calmed her down and put her to bed, and the next morning, she saw that we were right. Santa came, and he was very generous.

I wish we’d taped Santa’s sleigh and Thing 1’s reaction, but we didn’t. I looked around online, though, and finally found a clip of the helicopter-powered sleigh over Laurel, Montana, last Christmas.