Thinking too deeply about Santa Claus

It’s winter time, and my kids are small. This has meant many, many, many hours of listening to the same Christmas songs again and again.

When you find yourself in this sort of situation, you start having some interesting thoughts. Recently, I found myself thinking a bit too deeply about the songs Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

I think it’s important to acknowledge that according to the first song, Santa’s reindeer are sentient. How else could the other reindeer “laugh and call him names”? The ability to verbally insult seems something that only intelligent beings can do.

Santa appears to have an excess of reindeer. Prior to the events in the song, Rudolph was not part of the sleigh team. It makes sense that Santa would have some reserve reindeer (what if one of the regulars got injured or sick?), but to what extent?

I believe Santa has many extra reindeer. They are explicitly called “reindeer”, which means they’re caribou. However, you don’t see many caribou out there that can fly, or haul several million pounds of toys, or withstand crushing g-forces, or call each other names. I think that what this means is: Santa has been selectively breeding reindeer. Perhaps he noticed one reindeer that could jump extra far or somehow resisted gravity and started breeding for that trait. Along the way, he happened to come across a strain that introduced a phosphorescent nose. However, in order to prevent inbreeding and the emergence of less desirable characteristics, Santa would need a really large herd.

This also implies that the names of the reindeer are titles: breeding reindeer implies they’re not immortal, as immortality tends to throw a wrench in evolution and effective breeding programs. This is borne out further by the grandiose titles given to the regulars: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen. “Rudolph”, by comparison, is a fairly pedestrian name. (No offense intended to anyone reading this who might be named “Rudolph”; you just don’t often meet people named “Dasher” or “Blitzen” in everyday life)

Santa doesn’t stop there, however. Santa also employs elves in his work. Like the reindeer, elves are also clearly a distinct, sentient race. Like the reindeer, Santa must employ a large number of elves. The ability to produce and track millions of toys while simultaneously surveilling children (according to the second song) requires an enormous amount of labor.

Put all of this together, and a rather sobering picture of Santa emerges:

  • Santa is an immortal, magic being
  • He subjugates two sentient races
  • He enforces breeding programs on sentient beings
  • He surveils minors
  • The extent of his surveillance puts the NSA to shame (“He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake”)
  • His goal is to assign a binary qualification of “naughty” or “nice” to children
  • Children are terrorized into being “nice” (“You’d better not pout! You’d better not cry!”)
  • The children on his “naughty list” get shamed (no present; just a lump of coal)
  • He forcibly enters millions of homes, bypassing all security systems
  • Parents are generally OK with all of this

Thank goodness Christmas is pretty much over…