Each time Christmas break ends, I feel more tired of the holiday. As a kid, I thought Christmas was great: Heavy Tahoe snow, tons of presents and rare family visitations made it a pretty magical time purely from the confluence of life’s pleasures. I remember defending the existence of Santa, then later understanding my error and subsequently dropping out of Sunday school. As I have matured, the conventional holiday of Christmas and its heralded retail orgy has have calloused my enthusiasm for the Yuletide spirit.
Then again, our Christmas tradition seems to be a series of random images, associations and myths some way concerned with sharing time with loved ones and being generous. The images themselves are arbitrary decorations if they have no meaning. To understand the decorations of Christmas is quite a surprising experience.
Christmas can accurately be described as a hijacked holiday, in that it is perceived as a Christian tradition. Most of the symbols and icons we associate with Christmas celebrations are actually derived from the shamanistic traditions of the tribal peoples of pre-Christian Northern Europe. Furthermore, most of them center on magic mushrooms.
The fly Amanita mushroom was sacred to the northern Europeans and remains so to many of their descendants. It is a bulbous organism with a bright red top and white spots, and is featured in many Christmas cards and pictures, sometimes with elves sitting on them or handling them. This fungus is a psychedelic drug that produces vivid sensory distortions and hallucinations within the user’s mind.
The fungal drug grows underneath fir and evergreen trees, symbolic of Christmas, and was viewed as the fruit of the tree (presents!) although there was no seed — seen as a ‘virgin birth.’ To prepare the ‘shrooms for consumption they need to be dried, so rather than take all of them back to camp, the shamans would adorn the tree boughs with ‘ornaments,’ or drying mushrooms.
Many Siberian shamans still wear ceremonial red and white fur-trimmed jackets to gather their magic mushrooms, and the Christmas colors of green, red and white refer to the combination of the drug and the tree. Houses at the time of Yule, the pagan Christmas, in Northern Europe were often covered on the sides by massive snowdrifts, so their door would open at the top of their ‘yurt’ house. The red-coated shamans with big bags full of presents (drugs) would enter through the ‘chimney.’ Finally, residents would put their boomers into stockings and hang them over the fire to dry completely and everyone would have a grand, spirited festival.
Reindeer were also known to love consuming the fly Amanita, and would prance about uncontrollably while they tripped out (flying reindeer indeed!). The active ingredient of the Amanita is not metabolized by the body, and thus it is possible to drink reindeer piss and literally “get pissed” into a hallucinatory stupor. It has been documented that some of our ancestors drank one another’s urine to achieve a tremendous high and thus trip out with one’s fellow barbarian and feel a connection with one another and with the universe.
These people also worshipped the North Star, or pole star, and was exhibited as the top decoration of the Christmas tree representations later on. The very name, ‘Christmas’ is a holiday name composed of the words, ‘Christ’ (meaning ‘one who is anointed with the Magical Substance’) and ‘Mass’ (a ceremony of the sacramental ingestion of the Eucharist, the ‘Body of Christ’). In the Catholic tradition, this substance has been replaced by the doctrine of ‘Trans-substantiation,’ whereby in a magical ceremony the priests claim the ability to transform a ‘cracker’ into the literal ‘Body of Christ;’ or in other words, give a placebo instead of the psychedelic drug.
Given these revelations, I have a new passion for Christmas and the potential it holds to generate pleasurable experiences on a massive scale. Santa of old was a drug-runner, but I find it easier to recognize him as a priest. Since dropping Sunday school, I have formulated new ideas of ‘God’ and the mental stimulus of glorious, exalting euphoria has settled many a mental conflict/paranoia. If a god indeed created our world, why would it deny us the fruits of its own creation?