Now, hold on a minute here! Let's just take a look at this whole Santa Claus business. One fat, aging guy who lives at the North Pole reads every kid's Christmas-wish letter, watches all of them to see if they're being naughty or nice, makes and boxes and wraps every toy they've requested and hand-delivers them around the world, in a single night?
The Santa story sure starts to crumble if you look at it too closely. It's a wonder that so many kids -- who can spend hours bugging you about why the sky is blue or what would happen if everyone in the world burped at the same time -- still buy wholesale into the Santa myth.
But believing in Santa doesn't mean kids suspend all questions -- he and his reindeer are endlessly fascinating to them. If you're stumped for answers, we asked a wide-ranging group of people to come up with responses to some questions kids might ask about the guy.
What if we don't have a chimney? And all the doors and windows are locked and the alarm system is on? How will Santa get in?
"Santa has made previous arrangements with all the parents," said Sgt. Robert Lassahn, head of the crime resistance unit for Baltimore City Police. "He has all the special security codes and all the right keys that will get him in. And he has extremely good key control at the North Pole, so no one else will get these keys and get into your house."
And for you kids who live where there's never anywhere to park: It's OK for Santa to double park while he --es in to deliver your presents.
"No self-respecting police officer would give Santa a ticket," Sergeant Lassahn said. "Police officers want to get their presents too, you know."
How can he get to every house in one night?
"I just kind of figure he has a lot of work to do, like many other people, and he just puts his nose to the grindstone and gets it done," said Steve Harper of Steve and Kenny's Clubhouse program for kids on WBFF-TV (Channel 45). "He just makes it an all-nighter."
If everyone puts out cookies and milk for Santa Claus, how can he eat them all?
How do you think he got so fat in the first place?
Actually, climbing up and down chimneys and stairs with a huge load of presents is hard work, and it burns a lot of calories.
We looked at some calorie charts -- no, there wasn't an entry for "delivering presents to all the good girls and boys," so we used the one for "climbing hills with a 44-pound load" -- and estimated that Santa burns about 65 calories per house.
Now if everyone left him two chocolate chip cookies and a glass of 2 percent milk, he'd get a whopping 250 calories each time. He'd never fit into his sleigh at that rate. So it's a good thing some of those health conscious families leave things like carrot sticks (31 calories) or graham crackers (70 calories).
What do the reindeer eat?
"Reindeer are vegetarians," said Brian Rutledge, executive director of the Baltimore Zoo. "They really like a lichen called reindeer moss, which is found in places north of Detroit. I'm sure parents won't like me saying this, but they sure would like azalea leaves. I think they would also like mountain laurel. But they're not really picky; they would probably eat anything evergreen, anything that stays green in the winter."
Is Santa black or white?
We weren't able to reach Michael Jackson on this one, although we believe he'd say something like, "It don't matter if he's black or white."
Which is pretty much what Shirley Harden's answer is.
"I would just say, 'I don't know because I've never seen him. He doesn't come until everyone's asleep,' ," said Ms. Harden, principal of Hernwood Elementary School in Randallstown and a parent who has answered her share of Santa questions from her own four kids, who range in age from 9 to 23, as well as her students.
"When you see the pictures of him, he's always . . . a nice old white guy. But I tell them it's just like everything else -- they portray him the way they think the majority thinks he looks," she said. "The point is, it's not necessary for him to be white."
Why are there different Santa Clauses on every corner and in every mall? Which is the real one?
"We're Santa's helpers," is how Kenny Curtis explains it to kids.
Mr. Curtis, the Kenny of Steve and Kenny's Clubhouse show on Channel 45, was one of the celebrity Santas who recently appeared at Harborplace. His cohort Steve Harper played Santa's elf.
"Kids came up to us and said, 'Hey, you're really Kenny and Steve,' " Mr. Curtis said. "The little kids didn't really care. And hTC some of the older ones wanted to let us know they were in on it. It was like: 'We know who you are, wink, wink.' "
Will Santa Claus bring me anything I ask for?