The Origin of Santa Claus, Christmas Trees and Flying Reindeer
Most of the rituals and trappings we associate with Christmas may have had their origins in ancient Siberia.
According to John Rush, an anthropologist and instructor at Sierra College in Rocklin, CA:
“Santa is a modern counterpart of a shaman, who consumed mind-altering plants and fungi to commune with the spirit world.”
During earlier times, shamans would (literally) drop into people’s homes during late December, bearing gifts of hallucinogenic mushrooms:
“As the story goes, up until a few hundred years ago these practicing shamans or 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. Because snow is usually blocking doors, there was an opening in the roof through which people entered and exited, thus the chimney story.”
This particular hallucinogenic mushroom, Amanita muscaria, lives throughout the northern hemisphere, usually underneath evergreen or birch trees. The fungi is a deep red with white flecks. According to the author of Mushrooms and Mankind:
“Why do people bring pine trees into their houses at the Winter Solstice, placing brightly colored (red and white) packages under their boughs, as gifts to show their love for each other? It is because, underneath the pine bough is the exact location where one would find this 'Most Sacred' substance, the Amanita muscaria, in the wild.”
There also was a tradition in Siberia of dressing up in costumes that resembled these mushrooms, i.e. a red suit with white spots.
Reindeer are common in this area, and it’s possible that Siberians tripping on Amanita muscaria thought they saw flying reindeer.
Anyway, food for thought.
There’s another interesting little tidbit about Amanita muscaria, which wasn’t mentioned in the linked article. Amanita muscaria passes through the urine completely intact. Russian aristocrats used to ingest the drug, and then they’d let the peasants drink their piss so the peasants could get a free high.