Santa is coming tonight! All you need to know about the big guy and how to track his sleigh

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To deliver presents to the 43,000 keiki on the Big Island this Christmas Eve, Santa will have some snow left at the top of Maunakea to guide his sleigh.

But for the other 2.5 billion children on Earth, many who live where there is not snow — including the other Hawaiian islands, they need not fret.

Santa and Mrs. Claus. File photo courtesy of Kona Commons.

Howard Diamond, climate science program manager at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Air Resources Laboratory, said Santa has excellent aeronautical charts of the Pacific Ocean. And, he recently installed a global positioning system, or GPS, equipment on his sleigh to ensure he delivers all of his presents with even more pinpoint accuracy than before.

“So the keiki should not be worried at all,” Diamond said. “Santa delivers globally whether there is a white Christmas or not.”

And, Diamond said Santa knows Hawaiʻi well. “I hear that he summers there on vacation.”

A white Christmas is a truly Northern Hemisphere phenomenon anyway. Dec. 21, which is the winter solstice in the north, is the beginning of summer south of the equator.


“So Santa does not need any snow to … help guide him to all the keiki homes in Hawai‘i as well as the places he starts his delivery run at in New Zealand and Australia,” Diamond said.

The snow-covered summit of Maunakea was a beautiful view from the Volcano Golf Course. Photo Credit: Kevin Faust

Many of the Aloha State’s estimated 304,000 keiki will find it hard to sleep Saturday night — snow or no snow — in anticipation of the Big Man’s arrival on Christmas Eve. It’s all part of the magic of the holidays.

But how well do you really know the Man in Red?

He is known by several names to the 2.5 billion children around the globe, including Father Christmas in the United Kingdom, Père Noël or Papa Noël in France, Święty Mikołaj in Poland and Weihnachtsmann in Germany, Santa Claus traverses the planet one night a year to deliver the perfect presents that he and at least 12 elves created at his North Pole workshop for all good boys and girls.

He makes his annual deliveries in a magical sleigh pulled by nine flying reindeer. Can you name them all?


According to Fun Kids, Santa’s sleigh is the fastest vehicle ever. In order to make all of his deliveries on time for Christmas morning, his sleigh has to move at about 1,800 miles per second: “Wow!”

He’s officially qualified to fly, too. The U.S. government in 1927 issued Santa a pilot’s license. He and his wife Mrs. Claus even have Canadian passports after receiving e-passports from Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander in 2013.

Screenshot from video on Fun Kids website.

No matter what he’s called or what he’s wearing, there’s no mistaking him when he belts out a “Ho, ho, ho” to express his happiness and joy. Who wouldn’t be happy making children smile —and eating all those cookies on Christmas Eve, right?

When her kids were young, Kathryn Naipo of Hilo would usually leave a sugar cookie for St. Nick on Christmas Eve. Nichol Nishiyama, who lives in Kaumana in Hilo, has fond memories of providing shortbread cookies for Santa when she was a child. Now, she leaves peanut butter cookies for him as part of the tradition with her keiki.

But Santa is expected to visit somewhere in the neighborhood of 395 million houses on Christmas Eve. If he were to eat one cookie and drink one glass of milk at each house, how many calories would that be?


KURU Footwear did the cookie math and found Santa would consume 71.2 billion calories from milk and cookies alone, based on one chocolate chip cookie made with butter for 78 calories and one cup of low fat milk at 102 calories.

The average sugar cookie has about 113 calories, but leaving a peanut butter cookie at 95 calories or a shortbread cookie at 40 calories is better for his already hefty waistline.

Graphic courtesy of KURU Footwear.

Eating 71.2 billion calories — 40.4 billion for the milk and another 30.9 billion for the chocolate chip cookies — would cause Santa to gain about 20.4 million pounds from just that one night. He would need to walk 1.1 trillion steps, or 503 million miles, to burn off every last calorie. That’s the equivalent of walking around the equator 20,000 times.

Thank goodness for his Christmas magic.

“Just like the secret behind his delivery speed, we imagine there is magic at work when it comes to accounting for Santa’s Christmas calories,” the footwear company says.

Seeing that he visits hundreds of millions of homes with multiple presents for each, the company added regardless of how much weight the Jolly Old Elf puts on from munching on cookies and milk, it’s probably still a safe bet the sleigh returns to the North Pole lighter than it left: “Much to the reindeer’s relief.”

That magic also helps him stay elusive. It is tough to catch Santa on Christmas Eve, but you can spot him in shopping malls and other places around Christmastime, where it has become tradition for keiki to bend the ear of the Man in Red to tell him what they want and get their picture taken with him.

If your kids didn’t get their letters to the North Pole early enough or didnʻt have the chance to stop by and talk to Santa in person when he’s been on the Big Island this December, there is another way keiki can get their wish lists to him.

Santa’s Hotline, hosted by, is an international voicemail line for children of all ages to leave messages for the North Pole at no charge.

In the United States, all you have to do is call 1-605-313-4000 to get in your last-minute requests.

Santa’s Hotline is truly a global experience, entertaining generations of families everywhere,” says David Erickson, CEO and founder of, on the company’s website. connected more than 8 million children to Santa’s Hotline last year alone.

“It’s great to spread some holiday cheer and help kids in this high-tech society find the quickest and fastest point of connection to Santa of the 21st century,” Erickson says.

Keiki and their ‘ohana also have a way to track Santa while he’s making his deliveries.

Screenshot from NORAD Santa Tracker website.

“Our colleagues at the North American Aerospace Defense Command do a very nice job of of that — and have since the mid-1950s,” Diamond said. “So I would encourage keiki and their families to track him via that application.”

The NORAD Santa Tracker can be found here. It not only will tell you where St. Nick is on Christmas Eve, but there also are Christmas-themed activities on the site, including games, music and movies. Keiki can also find more information about Santa, his sleigh and other holiday traditions around the world.

It’s all in an effort to highlight the magic of the Christmas season and that of the Big Man behind the sleigh, reindeer and presents. That is as real as the twinkle in every child’s eye when Santa is part of the conversation.

“Based on historical data and more than 65 years of NORAD tracking information,” the agency said, “we believe that Santa Claus is alive and well in the hearts of children throughout the world.”

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
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