A Very Mushroom Christmas

Posted on December 20, 2022


Most humans can be forgiven, as they careen from one mall store to another, or as they burn their fingers out clicking “buy” at this time of year, trying to fulfill all the items written on their gift-giving lists, to actually think about why on earth this happened? Why was Santa Claus ever invented and why on earth did he require that we carry the burden of providing gifts to loved ones, friends and business associates?

The truth is that there are as many versions of the Santa Claus story, as there are versions of the truth to loyal GOPers. Most versions of Santa share a jolly, happy dude with a long beard, who makes children happy.

One version is that the legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around A.D. 280 in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of “sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, prostitutes, brewers, pawnbrokers, unmarried people,” and children whose appetite for toys is insatiable.

But let’s get real, here. With all due respect to Nick, there are other versions of the Santa story. A truly compelling one takes us to Siberia and the Artic, where, as everyone knows, life was tough and there was little to look forward to, other than an untimely deatth. Also, as everyone knows, primitive societies depend on shamans to cure them and give them a reason to go on.

Shamans went door to door (or rather tent to tent) to dispense heath and good fortune. Because snow is usually blocking doors in such communities, there was an opening in the roof through which the shaman entered and exited (thus the chimney story.) The shaman would drop into people’s homes (literally) with his bag of magic mushrooms, ensuring that the inhabitants were about as happy as could possibly be. In the era before malls, the shamans’ health and happiness distribution became known as “gifts.”

The magic mushrooms were found beneath pine trees. Thus, pine trees became the symbol of this happy time of year. Reindeer are common in Siberia and northern Europe, and seek out these hallucinogenic fungi, as the area’s human inhabitants have also been known to do. Tree ornaments shaped like Amanita mushrooms and other depictions of the fungi are also prevalent in Christmas decorations throughout the world, particularly in Scandinavia and northern Europe. Donald Pfister, a Harvard University biologist who studies fungi, suggests that Siberian tribesmen who ingested these mushrooms may have hallucinated that the grazing reindeer were flying. As no reindeer have been available for comment, we cannot substantiate this. We do know that reindeer were the spirit animals of shamans and reindeer-motorized sleighs were the transportation of choice.

Shamans dressed like the mushrooms they distributed. The Amanita muscaria is deep red with white spots. Therefore, the shamans dressed in red suits with white spots (or white trim). Grateful receivers of the mushrooms fed the shamans, and, like most humans, the shamans soon became overweight from all the food given to them.

And, just to add a bit of icing to the mushroom cake, shamans and herdsmen are documented drinking reindeer urine in order to experience the psychedelic effects of the mushrooms the caribou have eaten. Initiates drink the urine of shamans who have nibbled on mushrooms for the same reason. Psychedelic piss is known to be recycled up to five times.

Loyal readers are free to believe in any version of Santa they choose. Whatever your choice, you’ll still have all those holiday bills to pay off, come January. Until then, enjoy the season.