Christmas in the summer. Christmas in the winter. What’s a beloved, roly-poly, red-clad employer of elves to do? Santa’s life is not easy. His worst frenemy? Geography!

[Frenemy = friend + enemy rolled into one.]

Santa Claus lives, so we are led to believe, in Rovaniemi, Finland. He has a mail facility there, but his and his enterprise’s actual whereabouts are secret. A little digging around yields this as the absolute location (also called unique location or mathematical location) in geography: 66°30′N 25°44′E.

Good! Now we got that sort of sorted out, let’s move on.

Tannoy inappropriateness

In many places in Bengaluru, particularly shops, you can hear Christmas songs being played over the tannoy (public address system). On a recent evening I visited a retail store on Brigade Road to purchase some things. Never you mind what I wanted to purchase. Don’t be so nosy!

And playing on the tannoy was a song that was rip-off of a children’s song that is rather widely taught in English Medium Nursery Schools in many places: She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes. This song being played said, “He’ll be coming down the chimney when he comes. The “he”, of course, is Santa Claus. The song went on to describe his trip down the chimney and how, among other things, soot would get up his nose and he would sneeze. The onomatopoeic word, “Achhooo!” was repeated several times, in case you didn’t catch it the first 3 times!

[Onomatopoeic is the adjectival form of onomatopoeia – it’s a word that sounds like the sound it is represents. Other examples: hiccup, cuckoo, meow, honk, boom, splat, thud, etc. ]

I remembered again, thanks to that song, the travails of dear old Santa Claus.

Oh, geography!

Santa, if I may address him by first name, is very much like the typical student. His gifts are due around the world on 25 December. When an assignment is due tomorrow, your typical student slogs the day before, perhaps even staying up late at night, to somehow get the assignment turned in on the morrow. Not that you are like that, of course! Perish the thought!

So, our man has one night – one night! – to deliver them gifts. Does he start on 2 April and spread his work out evenly throughout the year, applying geographic principles in such a way that he can do his work efficiently?

Well, of course not!

He sets out on 24 December to cover the entire list of addresses so that when people wake up on 25 December, the gifts are all there under the tree, all ready to be opened.

Once he sets out, his troubles are only just beginning. In the snowy areas of the northern hemisphere, he is in good shape. So long as he does not have to deal with apartment blocks – if he confronts them, well, he will be quite nonplussed! The temperatures being what they are in his area, at this time of the year, he has to be really well-clad. I mean, there is nothing more distressing than a Santa with chattering teeth, what? *

Then he continues with his journey, and reaches the Himalaya mountains. Snow-clad? Yes. Lots of deliveries to be made? Well, … Problems with delivery? Yes, quite. * Temperatures? Cold. Attire appropriate? Very!

Then he has to come to Delhi, Lukhnau, Nagpur, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai … oh-oh! And ayyayyo! Problems. * Natural environmental conditions? H’mmmm … Cultural conditions? Uhhhhh … The well-being of the reindeer? One word: ka-put! Appropriateness of attire? Tch-tch. *

In Bengaluru (as with most other Indian cities), he confronts large apartment complexes. And the separate, individual (detached) houses? They are not helpful either. *

And he’s still not done!

Crossing the Big Line

He has to cross the biggest of the horizontal “imaginary line on the surface of Earth” and visit the vast continent of South America where most of the inhabitants celebrate Christmas. Lots of deliveries to be made? Well, cultural conditions kind of limit the number of deliveries to be made. *

Then check the reindeer and Santa’s attire … Heaps of trouble, I say! *

And then, he has to visit the largest continent of them all, Africa. The deliveries in North Africa are not as many as in southern Africa. *

Then, on to Oz (the fond nickname for Australia) and Aotearoa (what is this?). He finds the locals dressed in skimpy shorts and may be T-shirts, jogging on the land, surfing the ocean, and otherwise sweating profusely. The majority population looks very pink, if not beet red! Do a check on: the reindeer, Santa’s attire, and, delivery issues.

Tenacity

Santa is one very tenacious person! If he makes his round trip back alive, he will also be a very exhausted deliverer of gifts! I bet he takes a vacation for 3 or 4 months. After all, the children sending him their wish-lists are just like the students I mentioned earlier… waiting till it’s very late in the year to bombard the poor old dear with their juvenile demands.

Early-bird

I suggest you get in on the action early for Christmas 2019. It’s too late for this year. You can actually post a letter to him. While his factory and HQ are secrets, he does have a post office where your mail will be received on his behalf.

It’s in Rovaniemi, Finland. Check out the interactive map here. Explore the natural features, and other locational aspects of Rovaniemi.

His address is: Santa Claus Main Post Office, Tahtikuja 1, 96930 Rovaniemi, Finland.

Do Santa a favour, will you? If you do write to him, identify the geographic problems he’ll have to encounter on his journey to you in Bengaluru. Or Mysuru. Or Kyaathasandra. Or …

I have marked the problem points with * within the article above.

And tell him I said Hi, will you? Thanks.

If don’t want to write to him, tell me what your observations are: geo@tigs.in

 


A version of this article appeared in the Deccan Herald Student Edition on 19 December 2018

Featured image: 1881 illustration by Thomas Nast who, along with Clement Clarke Moore’s poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, helped to create the modern image of Santa Claus. Image source: https://goo.gl/4K6mUa [Accessed 17 Dec. 2018]

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