How to Deliver Presents to All the World’s Children

The legend of Santa has evolved over the centuries. From the original Saint Nicholas (Nikolaos of Myra) of the 4th century all the way to the modern day red suited jolly old man being pulled by a team of reindeer, the legend of Santa has managed to live on.

With large organizations trying to rekindle the meaning of Christmas with creative advertising, we decided to figure out what it would take to make Santa’s gift-giving magic a reality for the whole world. Maybe a logistically dominant organization (We’re looking at you Amazon) will even try to make this happen.

WestJet Christmas Miracle: real-time giving

Because there are many versions of Santa around the world we’ll use the North American version based off of the 1822 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore. Legend has it that Mr. Moore originally wrote the poem to recite to his children during the holiday season. Little did he realize the impact his poem would have on the legend of Santa Claus.

To make Santa’s gift giving come true, all children, in this case people under the age of 14, will receive gifts from Santa Claus regardless of their religion, culture, or belief in Santa. By drawing on the demographic data from Worldometers.info and averaging the population of the 10 highest populated countries (4,190,314,572 people) we can estimate that 24% of the world is under the age of 14.

If we estimate that there are 7,280,633,180 people in the world, this would suggest that roughly 1,747,351,963 are children. Let’s look into how it might be possible to deliver presents to all the World’s children.

The goal: Deliver 1 gift to the 1,747,351,963 children across the world.

The opening two lines of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” explains that Santa Claus will deliver his presents the night before Christmas.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;”

Logistically speaking, the 1,747,351,963 presents should be delivered to 196 countries (this list includes Taiwan, the Palestinian State, Kosovo, Western Sahara, Cyprus) on Christmas Eve.

And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

Mr. Moore’s poem suggests that the appropriate gift delivery time (a.k.a Christmas Eve) should be after households have gone to bed. For simplicity, we will standardize Christmas Eve. If we assume that an average person requires 8 hours of sleep and wakes up at 7am the appropriate gift delivery time will be between 11pm-7am or 23:00-7:00 for those on the 24 hour clock. However because regular delivery services do not traditionally operate during those times the packages should arrive on the morning of December 25th.

Deviating from the poem slightly we will also implement the naughty or nice list made famous from the song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” For those unfamiliar with the song, legend has it that naughty children would receive coal in place of a gift from Santa Claus come Christmas day. Because being naughty or nice is subjective, we’ll simply assume that 50% of children are naughty and randomly assign children to either label.

1,747,351,963/2 = 873,675,881.6

In the season of giving we’ll round up the Nice list.

Nice Children: 873,675,882 Presents
Naughty Children: 873,675,881 Pieces of Coal

The Nice List

873,675,882 is quite a large number. To produce that many presents would be a difficult task so we turn to a company who has vast experience dealing in volume: Mcdonald’s.

Mcdonald’s is the proud provider of the “Happy Meal.” In Canada, each happy meal comes with a yogurt, side, drink entree and toy starting at $3.99. For simplicity we’ll assume that each component contributes equally to the cost of the meal. Therefore if were to procure all the toys from Mcdonald’s at retail cost each present for the nice list would cost $1.00 plus tax.

$1 x 12% tax x 873,675,882 = $978,516,988

We are halfway to making the magic of Santa a worldwide reality.

The Naughty List

We will need 873,675,881 pieces of coal. To source this coal a logical place to start the search would be to look at the top producing coal country in the world: China. This is convenient for our purposes because China traditionally has cheap prices and contains a significant amount of children.

A quick search for lumps of coal on Alibaba.com led us to discover Lump Coal 4b high quality, reasonable price.
This particular source of coal is actually from Vietnam. While Vietnam is only the 18th ranked coal producing country, this manufacturer should work for our purposes. The FOB Price: US $150-180 / Metric ton.

That particular Alibaba link will not allow orders under 2000 tons but let’s assume they’re in the holiday spirit and made an exception. Assuming we don’t have a volume discount and the price is $180/ metric ton and each piece of coal is between 15 millimeters-35 millimeters (25mm average) we can find our total cost. Using Aqua-Cal’s anthracite broken coal calculator we know that 1 cubic millimeter equals to roughly 1.11 milligrams. The average piece of coal is 25 cubic millimeters meaning we need 873,675,881 x 25 = 21,841,897,040 cubic millimeters of coal.

Converting millimeters of coal to meters of coal we find that we will need 22 (21.84) cubic meters of coal which weighs 25 (24.31) metric tonnes.

25 tonnes will cost $180 x 25 = $4500

So now that we have our total cost $4,500 +  $978,516,988 = $978,521,488 we can start to plan the delivery.

Delivering Presents to all the World’s Children

Takashi Hososhima, Danbo Santa Claus, 2012,
Takashi Hososhima, Danbo Santa Claus, 2012, <https://www.flickr.com/photos/htakashi/8301213935/in/photolist-izt8Hm-5FX4VX-u34Qh-941f1K-5BqhXW-7qeXws-7m84vH-izt8J3-dCoTQ5-aGouCn-5Pkv48-dDxTGc-7oNQTX-aZHArc-qncs4W-95Gras-7mbX8Q-j4RuYW-7mbWL9-fZoiTS>

Transporting 1,747,351,963 gifts on one day will be an incredible feat. According to CNBC, “UPS and FEDEX move 25 million packages a day” and most of these are delivered on time regardless of weather, distance or the package size. This is about 70 times the quantity delivered on an average day for UPS and FEDEX.

Thankfully, the holiday season is not a regular time of year and UPS and FEDEX are not the only delivery services available. Delivery services have dealt with large influxes of deliveries during the holiday season for years. December 20th is the busiest time of year with UPS receiving 28,000,000 packages on a single day. That pales in comparison to the 640 million letters and parcels that the post office expects to process on December 20th (CNN Money).

When we look at the the influx that the post office has to deal with every year, delivering 70 times the normal package volume on Christmas Eve doesn’t seem too daunting. 1,747,351,963 packages is just slightly under 3 times the amount of goods that the US post office is expecting to process on December 20th this year.

The reason December 20th is such a busy time for delivery services is that “December 20 is the last day you can send a package for the big holiday by Priority or first class mail” (89.3 KPCC). That’s a lot of holiday greetings and presents floating around the United States alone. You have the option to send packages on or before December 23rd to make it on time for December 25th but will have to ship through priority mail express which is far more expensive.

Let’s make the assumption that our pieces of coal and our mcdonald’s happy meal toy will both fit in the standard USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope. The envelope has a weight limit of 4 lbs and both products will fit the limit comfortably. USPS has a predetermined price of $23.95 to all countries outside of Canada and the United States. If we use USPS as our source of delivery (I know there are better ways of doing this) our cost of delivering all the presents will come to $23.95 x 1,747,351,963 = $41,849,079,514.

Many families have multiple children who live under the same address. This means we can package our pieces of coal and toys together in a lot of cases. As the global total fertility rate currently sits at 2.36 we will make a broad assumption that the average household has 2.36 children.

The cost of delivery now drops from $41,849,079,514 to $17,732,660,811.

Cost of delivering 740,403,374 packages $17,732,660,811
Cost of Happy Meal Toys $978,516,988
Cost of Coal $4,500
Total Cost $18,711,182,299

So the grand total of delivering a modern day Santa Claus miracle will be $18,711,182,299.
Special thanks would also go out to the hard working individuals making those last minute holiday deliveries possible.

How would you improve the procurement and logistics of delivering presents to every child in the world?