That flying object in the sky on Christmas with the red glow isn't necessarily Santa.
It turns out the holiday season is a prime time for UFO spotting, according to Chris Rutkowski, head of Winnipeg-based Ufology Research. He's researched the phenomenon for three decades and compiles an annual Canadian survey of sightings.
"Looking over just the past 30 years of UFO reports in the Canadian UFO survey, I found that there were 75 cases that occurred on Christmas Day. And that's quite significant," he said.
"There certainly are more cases in the summer, but it's curious that there's been so many around Christmas itself, and in the days preceding and just after."
And that's only Canada. There are many more when reports from other countries are included, Rutkowski said.
"Most were simply lights in the sky, and yes, some were of a single red light flying overhead followed by a string of others. But others did not seem to have a reindeer explanation," he said.
On Christmas Eve 2010, a woman in Thompson, Man., said she saw three unexplained reddish-orange lights in a triangle in the sky for close to an hour. After some time, the middle light fell and faded, followed by the others.
And on Christmas Eve 2012, a couple driving near Kanata, Ont., stopped their truck to watch a square object with glowing, pulsating red lights moving soundlessly to the northwest for three to four minutes.
Mysterious lights in New Zealand
In other cases, people have reported seeing something with a little more structure, Rutkowski said.
On Christmas Day in 2017, around 1:30 a.m., a person was driving between Saint-Jovite and Saint-Faustin–Lac-Carré in Quebec, northwest of Montreal, when they saw a bright light, "like a photo flash," approaching.
The object flew directly over the car, according to the person, who said it was triangular shaped and seemed to have three turbines below it.
"I could see one of them very well and … make out the turbine's metal or steel spokes," the person said, according to Rutkowski's report.
As it passed overhead, the person looked in the rear-view mirror to see it again, but the object had vanished.
WATCH | Report from 1983 looks at some Manitoba UFO sightings:
Then there was the UFO seen over Chilliwack, B.C., on Christmas night in 2008. Witnesses saw a star-like light, like a satellite, moving from the south and travelling north, when it suddenly performed a "loop-the-loop" and went back to the south again, all within about 25 seconds.
Globally, there have been some significant UFO cases at this time of year, said Rutkowski.
A famous example is the Kaikoura lights, reported in New Zealand just before Christmas 1978. The crew of a cargo aircraft watched a series of strange lights flying around their plane for several minutes before disappearing, and then reappearing elsewhere.
The pilots described the lights as ranging in size from small to as big as a house, and all flashing brilliantly. About a week later, a television crew from Australia on a flight to Christchurch saw and recorded the lights, one of which reportedly followed the aircraft almost until landing.
Despite an investigation by the New Zealand Ministry of Defence, the mystery of lights remains unsolved.
There's also the Rendlesham Forest lights in Suffolk, England, which started with a sighting on Christmas night into Boxing Day in 1980.
American airmen stationed at RAF Woodbridge in eastern England reportedly saw mysterious lights and a triangular shape in the forest outside the perimeter fence. When they went to investigate, the airmen found indentations in the ground and detected strange radiation readings.
St. Nick in Yukon?
One of the most famous reports associated with Santa happened on Dec. 11, 1996, in Yukon. Though a bit early, several of the witnesses said they thought they were actually seeing St. Nick and his crew, said Rutkowski.
A man was watching TV when he noticed a long row of lights moving in the distance through a window. He later said he thought it was a 747 jet, but there wasn't a whisper of sound.
The UFO consisted of "four big balls of light in a row," red-yellow in colour with "a little bit of blue." At the left and right side of this row of lights were smaller lights that were orange and green, according to the report.
The man called the rest of his family to have a look and his three children, the oldest of whom was six, declared it to be Santa and his reindeer.
The UFO slowly drifted from left to right and appeared low, just above the trees. There were also what appeared to be white sparkles dropping away from the base of the larger lights, according to the report.
More than 35 people reported the object but in the end, the search for an explanation was given a boost by the Canadian Space Agency — quite literally.
"It turns out that a rocket booster was coming in at just exactly that right time right over the Yukon," Rutkowski said. "But it's hard not to imagine that something a little supernatural was going on up there."
Explanations for most — but not all — sightings
In Canada there are about 900 to 1,000 UFO reports each year. It must be reiterated that most have simple explanations, Rutkowski said, but "there are some unusual cases that don't."
One of those happened, as if to ring in the new year, early on the morning of Dec. 31, 1997, over Resolute Bay, Nunavut.
With the temperature hovering at –40 C, a bright white light was seen moving northward at an estimated altitude of about 122 metres and at a speed calculated by the region's airport manager as 645 to 800 km/h.
"Witnesses included some of the meteorological technicians who are working up there, and they said, 'Nothing flies here at that speed, and especially not at 3 a.m.' And they'd be aware of anything flying overhead," Rutkowski said.
"So, you know, some of those cases do have some mystery to them."