Imagine the snowy fields of Siberia. Vast expanses of cold fields. Reindeer herds jog through the trees. And shamen take magic mushrooms while dressed in big red suits.
"Santa is a modern counterpart of a shaman, who consumed mind-altering plants and fungi to commune with the spirit world," said John Rush, an anthropologist and instructor at Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif.
Here are some fun similarities between Siberian shamen and Santa Claus. You'll never look at Christmas the same way again!
1. Arctic shamans would give mushrooms as gifts on the winter solstice.
"As the story goes, up until a few hundred years ago, these practicing shamansor priests connected to the older traditions would collect Amanita muscaria (the Holy Mushroom), dry them and then give them as gifts on the winter solstice," Rush told LiveScience in an email. "Because snow is usually blocking doors, there was an opening in the roof through which people entered and exited, thus the chimney story."
2. You can find mushrooms, like Christmas gifts, beneath pine trees.
The Amanita muscaria, also known as fly agaric, lives throughout under conifers and birch trees. The fungi are red with white flecks, which looks like the colors of most Christmas presents.
3. Reindeer were shaman "spirit animals."
There were tons of reindeers in Siberia. Magic mushrooms make you hallucinate. It's not much to imagine that people would trip balls and see reindeer flying.
4. Shamans dressed like Santa Claus.
Ruck said that shamans distributing mushrooms "also have a tradition of dressing up like the [mushroom] … they dress up in red suits with white spots."
5. Santa is from the Arctic.
Siberia is in the Arctic. Santa lives in the north pole. Coincidence? Mais non!
6. "A Visit from St. Nicholas" may have borrowed from shaman rituals.
If you look at a lot of Christmas traditions, many of them have roots in pre-Christianity. Many of them recall Norse mythology. For example, try this: Thor, known in Germany as DONNER (like the reindeer, right?) would ride through the night in a sleigh being pulled by goats. Just takes a little imagining and they become Santa and his sleigh. Many of these traditions were merged or projected upon St. Nicholas, a fourth-century saint known for his generosity, as the story goes.
And that's how a bunch of tripping Siberian reindeer herders started the legends of Santa Claus.