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As it's that time of year I thought it is time for a Santa themed question...

Keeping the bureaucracy up to date with one's correct address is a nightmare: recently I have experienced it firsthand, when a credit recovery agency contacted me for not having paid taxes during the past 3 years in a city where I do not reside for more than 5 years. It has taken some struggle to prove that I didn't owe any taxes because I had legally moved to another city.

Apparently, Santa is immune to this struggle: presents are always timely and precisely delivered, even if little Sarah and Tommy have moved to their new place in Middleofnowhereton with the family the night before. And all of this way before we all had GPS equipped devices allowing us to be (potentially) tracked with meter precision.

This of course begs the question: how can Santa, since the times of Victorian era, be able to keep updated logs of the location of all the kids who will be getting a present from him?

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    $\begingroup$ This makes me realize that in modern times Santa may be one of the biggest security and cybersecurity threats there is. Could make a good story... $\endgroup$
    – Drake P
    Dec 19, 2022 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ @DrakeP That's why the red alert is raised and not any other colour. He's the biggest, yet still uncatched criminal in existence : Breaking and entering, cookie and milk theft, light-speed speeding and unauthorized flights, massive personal data collection, ... He tries to corrupt us with gifts, but it won't work on me... Well, if the content is not what I wanted :p. $\endgroup$ Dec 19, 2022 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ Actually.Santa is the biggest example of The Morality Police there is. Keeps an open file on everyone, naughty or nice. $\endgroup$ Dec 19, 2022 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ He sees you when you're sleeping; He knows when you're awake... $\endgroup$
    – DLosc
    Dec 19, 2022 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question, this site is about fictional world creation; not real life. $\endgroup$
    – 7caifyi
    Dec 20, 2022 at 22:54

21 Answers 21

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Subversion of other bureaucracies

You know how you and your family managed to do every part of packing up and moving, while the government had 200 people to deal with just a few bits of paper and cocked it up? Here's why:

90% of bureaucrats actually work for Santa. What look like tax forms, property forms, etc, are actually ciphered child Records Of Righteous and Naughty Behaviour. All through the year, the bureaucrats of every nation accumulate dossiers.

They might seem like a boring bunch with little initiative or skill, but that's a ruse. These guys dream up (and decipher) ruses and ciphers on the spot for fun. There are a few genuinely miserable, anally retentive ones but they are the 10% actually running governments. Mostly processing forms that 'have wrong information' or 'were the wrong type'...but were actually perfect for their real purpose. Or attending meetings about how to deliver everything in war zones, but perceiving them as 'Wellness Seminars'...etc.

This is why Santa always gets it right but governments so rarely manage to actually transform their agencies.

This has been happening ever since Sinter Klaas and Zwarte Piet first got off the boat from Morocco, but they made the cover story better in the 1800s with the whole North Pole / reindeer business.

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He does not

He simply visits every habitat, searches with infravision for kids, then searches local database for whether the kid found is listed as naughty, and if not, searches for request for a particular present, if that is found, he uses a telefragger teleporter in his bag to deliver the exact present if that's available, otherwise the kid gets something random. So, Santa does not search for address of a kid, instead he searches for kids at address.

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    $\begingroup$ Much like the Honest Trailers' description of Peter Pan, trying to make childhood fantasies realistic creates creepy child-searcher monsters. $\endgroup$
    – Simone
    Dec 19, 2022 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ So, Santa does not have a way to keep his database updated, he just has a way to identify who is every single kid he encounters during his trip... I guess that opens a new question? $\endgroup$
    – Josh Part
    Dec 19, 2022 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ @JoshPart Given his age, Santa clearly isn't human. So, when a child is born, he or his elves simply place a special ID tattoo on the forehead, in an ink that is invisible to humans. This is also how they can identify which children are being Naughty or Nice — they see the behaviour, then record "Child#009174625817" as having done it. Then, when Santa spots "Child#009174625817" asleep in a house, he can just look them up in the Naughty-and-Nice book. $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2022 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ Obviously he has the ability to sample DNA from a distance. Identifying kids will be a breeze after that. To determine if kids were naughty, Santa has nanobots everywhere, counting naughty actions that the kids take. You may sometimes see these bots in a sunbeam. They look like an odd dust that seems too large to float on its own. $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2022 at 8:33
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    $\begingroup$ Santa is not infallible. $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2022 at 9:08
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He works with the tooth fairy

The tooth fairy regularly comes for lost teeth. This establishes a sympathetic magical link between the child and their lost tooth, allowing them to be tracked at all times and allowing his elven mages and witches to scry children to see if they're naughty or nice.

It would be nice if the government could update to the Victorian century and use real magic rather than outdated tracking methods, but sadly inadequate education in magic and outdated views on it prevents modern bureaucracy from being as efficient and timely.

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    $\begingroup$ If you came up with this yourself instead of lifting it from Terry Pratchett's 'Hogfather', take a bow, you just described many elements of a very popular book. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Dec 19, 2022 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ The problem is the children who get gifts before they lose their first tooth. After all, if he just uses the Tooth Fairy's address book where she keeps track of where the children are for the day, it only pushes it back a level. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Dec 20, 2022 at 2:29
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    $\begingroup$ Have you noticed how orphans don't tend to get presents? They can also track people via their parents, and if you lack parents you often don't get presents. You're off the grid. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Dec 20, 2022 at 11:19
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By Mail

Santa receives letters from children all year round telling him what they want for Christmas. Using the return address on the letter, he can keep track of where these children live and deliver them Christmas Presents every year. Children who are too young to know their own address get help from their parents. Updates to a child's address can thus be kept track of by a simple paper trail.

But What About Homeless Children?

Have you ever seen homeless children receive presents from Santa? No. Santa does not deliver presents to those children.

What If They Move After Their Letter Is Sent?

Then Santa will find that the expected children are not in their house, and contact the post office for their mail forwarding address. If one cannot be found, then no present will be delivered to that child from Santa, and they will be sad.

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    $\begingroup$ That's right, and in fact Santa has been forbidden from delivering to homeless children since that time he signed the contract with the Coca Cola™ corporation containing a clause by the Department of Capitalist Meanness© prohibiting it. $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2022 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ @leftaroundabout He is nothing if not adherent to his (Santa) Clauses. $\endgroup$
    – Zibbobz
    Dec 20, 2022 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ "Have you ever seen homeless children receive presents from Santa? No. Santa does not deliver presents to those children." Dude, that is Cold-hearted, which makes it so funny. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Dec 21, 2022 at 1:50
  • $\begingroup$ @leftaroundabout: I would tend to assume it had something to do with that one time a child wished for a Sears house, and nobody had any idea where to put it. (Remember, in those days, children would be told to "pick something out of the Sears catalog and Santa will bring it to you"...) $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Dec 21, 2022 at 5:50
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn Brutalist Santa Claus. $\endgroup$
    – Zibbobz
    Dec 21, 2022 at 16:41
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Santa is a superior being

When you think about it, we're talking about a person that can do all of the following :

  • Knowing what presents every children wants individually
  • Carrying all those presents in a single bag
  • Visiting every single child in the world during the span of a single night
  • For each household, somehow breaking in to deliver the gifts and escaping, both without leaving a single trace or clue as to how the deed was done.
  • Staying alive for many centuries without showing signs of weakness or aging.

With all of that, a pinch of limited omniscience doesn't seem too far-fetched, no matter whether Santa really is human or not.

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Elf infiltrators

Santa's elves have infiltrated all registrar's offices, town halls, record halls, or other relevant archives, maintain up-to-date information, and communicate this to Santa Claus' base of operations (be it in or near the 'North Pole', Korvatunturi, Drøbak, or Uummannaq).
Last-minute changes are provided by local elves at the moment Santa arrives in a locale at his traditional point of entry.*

While most of these covert agents remain undetected, not all of them operate invisibly from the local governmental body: throughout history, some of Santa's agents have acquired a special, internally recognized, extralegal status, allowing them to obtain and pass on the necessary information without requiring the consent of the concerning parties.
Within the legal treatise, the article describing and exempting this exception is known as the Santa Clause.


* Changes in which, due to construction or local policies, will have been communicated to local handlers well in advance.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually their concealment is less than perfect. Nearly every government office has an "Elf and Safety" department. (Sorry, couldn't resist!) $\endgroup$
    – NL_Derek
    Dec 21, 2022 at 22:30
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The Big Book

Santaclaus writes down all names of naughty kids in a huge book. Every year, he takes the book with him and before climing the roofs to put presents down the chimney, the book will decide if a kid gets a present or not.

Recent modernizations

Above I have described the 150 years old Victorian age tradition in the Netherlands. We actually cannot be sure if Santa still does it this way, because Santa keeps his Big Book secret for us. Probably, the 2022 big book is a OAuth-protected SQL-server database, which can be accessed through Santa's mobile phone.

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    $\begingroup$ Zwarte Piet being a database administrator makes sense. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Dec 20, 2022 at 8:26
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    $\begingroup$ Database administrators don't climb roofs. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Dec 21, 2022 at 23:40
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    $\begingroup$ Unless you tell them that there's a malfunctioning node in their backup cluster on the roof. But I take your point in general. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Dec 22, 2022 at 0:01
  • $\begingroup$ @SeanOConnor eventually, "database admins" become obsolete (like Zwarte Piet) you can set up your kids/adress map online and Santa will be the only user.. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Dec 22, 2022 at 0:09
  • $\begingroup$ Substitute in 'disliked by people who don't understand his vital role and confuse his personal attributes with an actual problem' for 'obsolete', and you've got it. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Dec 22, 2022 at 7:50
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Quantum mechanics and alien symbiote horrors

Santa as we know it, does not really exist. At least most of the time.

There is a quantum phenomenon though, attributed to a fundamentally alien race (the "San'tah") living in symbiosis with human children, whose members use telepathic links to form a tight hive-mind and innate abilities to stay invisible and otherwise imperceptible.

During the year the billions of such entities closely follow the children all the time, feeding on their residual empathetic energies, be they merry or malicious. Not all of the ingested energy is useful for these beings though, but more on that later.

Then on Christmas day, after they got their fill and grown full of energy, all the beings coalesce into a single individual, creating the form we know as "Santa". The combined consciousness of the symbiote population is now strong enough due to the year-long energy gathering to cause the mass hallucinations of a jolly old man with white beard, flying reindeer and a huge sled. It then in quick succession collapses its collective quantum wavefunction to the location of each entity (and as an extension, each child). As an corollary, the "Santa" manifested each time is most strongly affected by the symbiote that was shadowing that particular child, thereby determining if that incarnation of "Santa" is predominantly merry or malicious.

At this point, the metabolical waste of the symbiote (what could not be used from the emotional energies) gets regurgitated in the form of presents or coals, depending on the predisposition of Santa and thus the behaviour of the child.

So there is no need to track addresses when you can track each recipient in real time, 0-24 and "teleport" to them at will.

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    $\begingroup$ umm... that isn't what my parents told me $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2022 at 5:24
  • $\begingroup$ @zevythegreat I bet they didn't tell you how the Tooth Fairy needs teeth to implant them in her mouth among her already collected billions for a truly charming grin. $\endgroup$
    – zovits
    Dec 22, 2022 at 10:38
  • $\begingroup$ if they all retain size...how does she fit through the window? $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2022 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ even if she only takes one tooth from every living person in the world, her "mouth" would take up ~1000 Km in every direction (very rough estimate) $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2022 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ @zevythegreat Great observation, but irrelevant for anyone not bound by the fetters of our measly three dimensions and laughably restrictive physics. $\endgroup$
    – zovits
    Dec 23, 2022 at 8:24
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Alien Santa

Santa is actually an alien (or a group of) with advanced technology. He's got a few billions nanobots everywhere on earth, recording everything that's happening. He's using it mostly for anthropological studies, but a long time ago, after seeing a kid having a rough day, he decided to do a nice thing all kids.

With theses bots and a very powerful AI processing the data, he knows in real-time where evrey kids is, and what they want.

It also explains why he's hundreds of years olds (alien, or succession of), and how he can deliver worldwide in one night (lots of drones).

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  • $\begingroup$ I like it. I read a book recently that had "vampires". Turns out the vampires were composed entirely of highly advanced nanobot swarms. They could look human if they wanted to, but they could also split up and go through air vents. It neatly explained lots of vampire powers. Maybe Santa is the same. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Dec 19, 2022 at 15:08
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Informant network

Santa in the Victorian-era was known to have a large network of informants (people keeping addresses and behaviors of children). When visiting a town he would get lists from these informants about the whereabouts of children and how they behaved during the year. The elves could then check the names to see if a letter was received from this child, to then have to a nearby warehouse fulfill the order (these would often be set up a couple of weeks in advance, or a contract would be made with local shopkeepers).

If a family had moved it would also be noted in the book to where if possible, or if not at least the general direction, where villages following the same would be checked until the child was found. (This is also the reason that children that became homeless did not get presents: no address could be found sadly).

These days Santa gets good help from the government regarding data and he's able to use some tracking based on the mobile data of the parents. Although still not perfect, he can find most children and being a philanthropist by nature he supplies financial aid to volunteer groups giving presents to homeless kids.

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  • $\begingroup$ There are corporations with better data than the government (e.g. Google, Apple, Experian, Facebook). Then again, perhaps Santa avoids collaborating with the naughty. $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    Dec 21, 2022 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ That was what come to mind first, but then again the government isn't nice either is it? I just think it might be to avoid conflict of interests. $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2022 at 14:03
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How does Santa keep locations updated for all of his gift recipients?

He doesn't. He uses thermal vision like The Predator to identify living beings and provides the presents to them once he identifies who they are.

And all of this way before we all had GPS equipped devices allowing us to be (potentially) tracked with meter precision.

We're acknowledging that a fat man in a red suit, riding a sleigh pulled by 9 reindeer, at millions of miles per hour, with presumably hundreds of shipping containers trailing behind him is somehow less amazing than the lack of GPS?

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Precognition

Santa is the most powerful precog in the world. He knows (because he has seen) what the most appropriate gift will be. So the good/naughty list is in fact a misdirection made by him to hide true extent of his power. It is a scary power after all, as it cast doubt on the existance of free will.

His need for letters is another ruse. Think about it! Have you ever heard of postman going to the north pole? And how could he read them? There are hundreds of languages in the world, and children are not known for following grammar, which makes those letters even more unreadable. It is far more logical that he has simply chosen the future where the child got the best possible present.

And since he can determine who was good and who was bad, and what is the best gift for children who were good, it is trivial for him to locate those children. He has after all seen the future where he successfully delivered said gifts!

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Just visit all the houses

Santa doesn't need to know, he just visits every house and checks whether there are any kids present. If there are, he reads their minds to see check whether they have been naughty or should receive a present.

The present is the same for all kids (to simplify logistics for the Santa coorporation) because Santa knows that any present is better then none.

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    $\begingroup$ Santa just goes through every house to see if there are children around? That's even more time-consuming. $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Dec 19, 2022 at 11:02
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    $\begingroup$ @joachim Santa is omni-potent. If we believe him to visit all children within 24 hours we can easily believe in him visiting all houses. $\endgroup$
    – nohillside
    Dec 19, 2022 at 12:03
  • $\begingroup$ I know, it was meant tongue-in-cheeckish :) Like this entire question: why ask for specifics if we agree on his omnipotence? $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Dec 19, 2022 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ Alternatively, Santa's Sack is magic and can determine what Santa needs when ever he pulls from it. If Santa enters a house and pulls a bicycle with training wheels on it, it's because the sack has detrmines that Santa needs is an appropriate gift for the child. The sack also determined what the gift is based on what the child wants for Christmas and whether the child is on naughty or nice list. After pulling so many gifts, upon reaching in, and receiving no more presents, Santa can leave the house since the sack knows Santa needs no more gifts. $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Dec 19, 2022 at 20:20
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    $\begingroup$ Santa uses quantum superposition in order to visit all houses simultaneously. That is why you must never stay up and try to catch Santa, because if he is observed the waveform will collapse, and he will need to start over again. $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2022 at 8:43
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E-commerce and social network databases

You might be able to shake the government off you and make them lose your tracks for quite a while, but then you'll end up buying stuff on Amazon or tweeting about the last episode of Stranger Things. Santa is actually the largest e-commerce and social network owner in the world.

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    $\begingroup$ E-commerce in Victorian era? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Dec 19, 2022 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ Oops, missed the requirement about Victorian era. I'm out. $\endgroup$
    – Simone
    Dec 19, 2022 at 16:02
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Magic. Or, if you prefer, Deific Purview.

Santa is an incredibly powerful being who occupies a unique and hard-to-nail-down spot in the divine hierarchy. While he's not technically a true God, he certainly resembles a lowercase-g god, akin to Hermes or Cernunnos. Every child who thinks about or prays to him grants him a small modicum of power, and writing letters is especially powerful (more so for children than adults; children find writing difficult and letters complicated, so the effort they expend is accordingly greater, while it's trivial for adults).

Every time the child prays (or especially) writes, it's a small boon to Santa's overall power—and also serves as them willingly entering into Santa's purview, and thus, his awareness.

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Through their food.

Have you ever eaten candy cane or other sweets? These are produced by the elves at the North Pole, or by their franchises world wide. Once you eat it, they can track you. It's not really clear whether it is based on magic or technology.

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He has them chipped

Just like pets, all children have a small microchip implanted in them. This allows Saint Nick to not only know their location, but also helps him track whether they are naughty or nice.

And this also lets him know when to stop. The microchip is powered by belief, so when the child stops believing the chip no longer works. So Santa knows he no longer needs to deliver to that child.

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  • $\begingroup$ He was chipping children 100 years ago? $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Dec 21, 2022 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ Where do you think the idea of chipping pets came from? $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2022 at 3:02
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What do you think he does for the rest of the year?

He travels the world with a long-lens camera, a parabolic microphone, and various other pieces of high-end bugging equipment, including state-of-the-art facial recognition software.

All of the collected information is collated by the elves to create an up-to-date record ("he's making a list") of where every child lives, and whether they've been naughty or nice.

He can visit every child in the world in one night. Performing in-depth surveillance operations on the other days shouldn't cause a problem. He's even got time for more than one visit ("he's checking it twice").

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  • $\begingroup$ The problem with this (and many other) answers is that Saint Nick has been delivering toys for a lot longer than this tech has existed. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Dec 21, 2022 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ Firstly, there were significantly fewer children back then. Secondly: where do you think the tech came from? The NSA? Hah! $\endgroup$ Dec 21, 2022 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ The NSA didn’t exist back then, either. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Dec 21, 2022 at 16:15
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Santa is a god of the hearth, thus he is present at the hearths of all worshipers all year round and doesn't need to look for where they are. As we all know, the geographic North Pole is just a point in the Arctic with no magical properties. Santa's North Pole is a reference to the hearth itself, the central "pole" of the household.

As many in Scandinavia know, his elves (the Jule Nisser) are just ordinary household spirits. All of Santa's magic is taking place in your own residence year round. He doesn't have to travel to appear at your hearth on the eve of Christmas.

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Triangles with that weird eye thing

There is a common myth that the Illuminati watch everyone through any dollar bill with that bizarre triangle eye-thing on it. That idea is categorically false. Santa had already purchased rights to that domain decades before the Illuminati got the idea, and in the ensuing court case (Claus vs. Illuminati), Santa retained his rights to surveil anyone who implicitly acquiesced to having their actions recorded (for analytics purposes). Using this method, watching for good behavior is a cinch. Tracking down people is easy too, seeing as anyone with a dollar is essentially holding a tracking device. This begs the greater question: Is Santa in cahoots with the Treasury? Did he plant a mole in the Mint? Is he, in fact, running everything behind the scenes?

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  • $\begingroup$ Most of the world kids never see a dollar note, though $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Dec 22, 2022 at 5:50
  • $\begingroup$ He expanded his technology suite years ago, and has some level of tracking on every major currency. The dollar is where he tests out his latest tech $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2022 at 5:52
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He uses DNA to identify them. He has a master DNA genetic tree database. Makes Ancestry look like a weak attempt. Every child that is born, he gets a DNA sample, and every year, he samples everyone's DNA by probing their nose, to update his registry. He does not know who is at the end of the probe,until the DNA analysis comes back.

Oh, and that 'naughty or nice' bit? All a ruse. Everyone gets a present,irregardless. Have you ever known Santa to NOT leave a present for someone?

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