Behind the Scene Secrets of Santa’s Sleigh

by Cie McCullough Buschle on December 20, 2011

in Arts and Culture

This year, with the help of NORAD, Albany Kid is pleased to bring to you some of the facts about Santa’s sleigh.

It wasn’t all that easy, as you can imagine. After all, Santa Claus has been around for hundreds of years, and is well known to be camera shy. However, throughout history there have been well documented incidents of run ins with the Jolly Old Elf, as well as a few snap shots.

The earliest surviving record is this one from Northern Finland. It is from 1555, and shows a very snowy night. Santa is seen on the left, on the ground, driving one reindeer.

1555 sleigh met by Laplanders

Santa meets the Laplanders

This raises unanswered questions: Did the artist only have room for one reindeer, or did Santa only have one reindeer pulling his sleigh at that time? It is possible, due to population, he only needed one reindeer to pull the sleigh and eight, or rather nine, now. The artist attempts to depict a snowstorm, perhaps he could only see one reindeer. Why was Santa on the ground? Was it simply weather conditions or was he close to home? Was this one incident that prompted a permanent move to the North Pole? This ancient picture really gives us food for thought.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert wish to bestow a gift to Father Christmas

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert wish to bestow a gift to Father Christmas

The next picture is from the 19th Century. It has been whispered that Santa, aka Father Christmas, was good friends with Queen Victoria of England. The Queen having taken the throne at the young age of 18 and having a prolific family of children, grandchildren, etc, Father Christmas was always welcome in the Royal households. The security, you understand, could guarantee his anonymity.

As a gift for all his kindness, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert commissioned a new sleigh, all very hush hush. The designers at Hooper & Co., Royal Coachbuilders to the Crown, must not have had small children or have ever been small children themselves, because they didn’t quite understand the use of the sleigh. Although sleek, and most likely fast, it could never carry the weight of the thousands of presents that  needed to be delivered by the 1800s. This sleigh was never built and it is unknown if the designs were ever shown to Father Christmas or if the Royal Family ever presented him with a finished sleigh.

There is a secret vault in the Smithsonian that holds several sleigh bells rumored to have fallen off Santa’s sleigh, as shown in this next picture. They have all been found near houses that hold young children on Christmas Eve or on Christmas morning. Several tests have been made on these bells, and they have proven to be of undetermined origin.

Sleigh bells, possibly from Santa's sleigh

Sleigh bells, possibly from Santa's sleigh

As can be seen, the elves in charge of making these bells have made great improvements, including the use of plastic and stainless steel bells. However well they were made, cold and icy conditions probably had a lot to do with the bells falling off, and we are lucky to have this small glimpse of them at all.

Lastly, we have an actual photograph of Santa Claus in his sleigh! This picture was taken several years ago by a clever teenager who set up a motion activated camera on his roof. It is obvious that Santa is rather stunned by the flash. Since no further images of this sort have surfaced, it is believed that Santa now sends out scout elves to deactivate any motion activated devices on his route. No word on whether or not the naughty teen received coal.

Actual sneak photo of Santa!

Actual sneak photo of Santa!

Now for some information confirmed by NORAD:

Santa’s sleigh is able to take off and land vertically, that is with little or no runway. It can be used in all weather conditions and is fueled by cookies, milk and carrots. (Always leave carrots out for the reindeer when you put out Santa’s cookie’s and milk!) The sleigh is capable of traveling great distances without landing, but is only used twice a year: on Christmas, of course, and the elves take it out for a test flight right after Thanksgiving.

1958 NORAD picture of Santa Claus

1958 NORAD picture of Santa Claus

Technical Data

  • Home Base: North Pole
  • Length: 75 cc (candy canes)/150 lp (lollipops)
  • Width: 40 cc/80 lp
  • Height: 55 cc/110 lp
  • Weight at takeoff: 75,000 gd (gumdrops)
  • Passenger weight at takeoff: Santa Claus 260 pounds
  • Weight of gifts at takeoff: 60,000 tons
  • Weight at landing: 80,000 gd (ice & snow accumulation)
  • Passenger weight at landing: 1,260 pounds (cookie accumulation)
  • Propulsion: Nine (9) rp (reindeer power)
  • Armament: Antlers (purely defensive)
  • Fuel: Hay, oats and carrots (on the road snacks)
  • Emissions: Classified
  • Climbing speed: One “T” (Twinkle of an eye)
  • Max speed: Faster than starlight

Note: Length, width and height are without reindeer.

For tracking Santa and his sleigh this Christmas, NORAD now has apps! for both Android and iDevices. Also, check out NORAD’s new Kids’ Countdown Village, with a new game to play every day until the 24th.

And if you are curious about Santa’s helpers, read The Secret Life of Christmas Elves – an Albany Kid story from last year.

You Might Like:

| Cie McCullough Buschle lives with her dog Einstein and a cat named Burton Guster. She is a lifelong traveler and enjoys researching history through holidays, toys, and everyday objects. Cie is a sculptor and co-owns The Creative Chameleon, a place where kids and adults can create, paint, celebrate, and just have a lot of fun. Sometimes you can find her time traveling back to the Middle Ages as part of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Previous post:

Next post: