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The Wonderful Thing About Santa…

SantaWhen you were little, you probably believed in all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures. Then, somewhere along the line, someone told you they weren’t real. But now, as a fully-grown hippie, you get to be a free spirit again, and visit beautiful places, listen to your kind of music, wear the funky hippie clothes you love, and believe in whatever you want. Hip-hippy-hooray!

If you’ve missed the magic of Father Christmas in your life, we’ve got good news. He’s 100% real. Definitely. We’re sure of it. Santa has graced many cultures, and we’ve gathered the evidence to convince you, this Christmas, that he is real…

Santa and Odinodin_sleipnir

Odin was the bearded, cloaked, patriarch of the Norse gods. He was known to travel through the worlds at magical speeds on his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir. By the way, there were originally 8 reindeer before Rudolph joined the team – Rudolph was created in 1939 to promote a department store! Odin has been known as Longbeard, Yuleman and Wish-Giver; one of his lessons is: “one gift always calls for another”. Leaving food and drink out for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve is reminiscent of the ancient practice of leaving offerings for Odin and Sleipnir in children’s shoes (stockings – anyone?) at Yuletide. So, don’t forget to leave out those carrots and mince pies this Christmas Eve! Who knows what blessings or gifts of wisdom Odin and Sleipnir might leave in their wake?

mushroomSanta’s reindeer and the Sámi

The reindeer-herding Sámi peoples of Lapland (also known as the Lapps) are perhaps best known for their psychedelic clothing and their custom of feeding the psychoactive fly agaric toadstool to their reindeer. The village shamans are reputed to drink the urine produced by the deer in order to traverse the worlds – which they do to seek healing for the tribe. The reindeer’s digestive system eliminates the harmful toxins from the fungus and leaves behind only the trippy effects of the shroom. Could this be the origin of the world’s flying reindeer legends? In any case, the distinctive red and white of the fly agaric has become inextricably linked with Father Christmas, who was traditionally depicted in green until the 1930s, when “a certain American soft drinks company decided Santa should be dressed in red as part of a marketing campaign…”

Santa and the Holly King

And speaking of Green Men, in our last post we told you a little about the Holly King and the Oak King, who rule the different halves of the year between the Winter Solstice and Midsummer. The Holly King was tasked with keeping people’s spirits up during the long winter months and ensuring that food was plentiful. His wagon of goodies was pulled by eight deer.And there are other bearded men in green who could take some credit for the origins of Santa. Sometimes known as ‘Saint Nick’, Santa could be an amalgamation of Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children, and certain pagan gods including the Teutonic god, Hold Nickar. “Legend tells that Hold Nickar galloped through the sky during the winter solstice, granting favours to his worshippers below.” – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxySanta Claus’s popularity was cemented in the 18th century when Dutch families living in New York honoured Sinter Klaas – the Dutch nickname for Saint Nicholas.There you have it – just some of the history of Father Christmas and his reindeer! It just goes to show that Christmas isn’t entirely commercial. Some of our Yuletide traditions – feasting, gift-giving and believing in supernatural forces that are watching over us – hearken back to ancient times. Groovy!