Here’s one I hadn’t heard before: the way we think of Santa wearing red and white and getting around via flying reindeer might be down to Siberian shamans partaking of hallucinogenic mushrooms! Ok, follow me here.
According to this article, many of our Santa-related traditions can be explained by the actions of ancient Siberian shamanic practices around the time of the winter solstice, when they would bring bags of hallucinogenic mushrooms to people in their tents. The red-and-white mushrooms grow under pine trees, thus the practice of placing brightly-colored packages under the Christmas tree. And the whole coming-down-the-chimney thing? The tent doors were usually blocked with snow at that time of year, so people came in and out through the roof flap where the cooking fire smoke escaped.
It’s not hard to accept that the idea of flying reindeer began with a hallucinogen-induced trip. And the Siberia connection would help explain why Santa lives at the North Pole.
Of course this only tells part of the Santa story. Other cultures have different traditions like putting gifts in shoes, or at the foot of the bed rather than under the tree.
Whether the mushroom connection is accurate or not, I’m fascinated by human traditions that are carried on sometimes for thousands of years and we don’t really know why. That’s just how it’s done. Christmas trees, presents, reindeer and Santa: it’s all part of the tradition, and we enjoy them whether we clearly understand their origins or not.
Had you heard of the mushroom-Santa connection before? What do you think of it?