couple of historical pieces on Halloween - a rundown on the
evolution of jack-o-lanterns and
a comic about the origin of the mythological Jack (for an exclusive,
limited edition I-Mockery club pack that no doubt is worth millions on
eBay by now) - I've pretty much established myself as the holiday
historian here at I-Mockery. So I felt it was about time I gave Santa
Claus the same treatment, collecting bits of historical and
mythological data and putting them together with a couple of
half-assed drawings and no research whatsoever. But I'm kinda smart,
so feel free to quote me in your master thesis on Santa anyway. Don't
worry, I've got your back.
Some of you readers probably have kids. And some of those kids are
probably about twelve now, which I've always felt was the natural age
to start questioning Santa's existence. In part, I'm doing this for
you guys, so you're ready to lay down some facts when that special
talk is due. And hey, maybe one day I'll give you the dirt on Easter.
I'd better give it a couple of years to let your kids grow up a bit
first, though, because oh man there's some sexy stuff in there. Like
boobs and everything. And stripper priestesses. That crap's like Xena.
is not the season of eggs and tits, it's the season to be jolly. And
who's more jolly than Santa? That guy in the hard caramel commercial.
But who's more jolly than him? Nobody, that's who. So Santa's pretty
far up there. But how did he come to be the jolly polar emperor he is
today? Well, like a couple of other stories it all started in a manger
down in Bethlehem.
In a brilliant marketing move, the early Christians swayed potential
members by deciding that Jesus was born around the same time as the
wildest party Rome could offer. No longer forced to choose between
lamenting their sins and partying for the sun, people flocked to
Christianity like wildfire. Or like a mixed metaphor to that last
sentence. Christmas was the new Mardi Gras, and people all over the
world (the white part of the world, anyway) partied like it was 999.
But real quiet-like.
Then, a lot later, a Dutch (or something close enough), rich and
religious person later known as Saint Niklas decided to give some poor
kids presents on Christmas, inspiring not only the gift-giving
traditions that are the core of the current version of the holiday,
but also the collected works of one Charles Dickens. The tradition
spread like... like wildfire, and children placed their wooden clogs
by their beds the night before Christmas, hoping the spirit of Saint
Niklas would place presents in them while they were sleeping. But this
was of course back in the days before Transformers were invented, so
the presents were pretty basic stuff. Like tulip bulbs or those weird
Dutch hats. Or slightly smaller wooden clogs.
Like the fish that got away, the legend of Saint Niklas grew larger
and larger each time it was retold. What started out as a simple story
about a guy with a bleeding heart expanded and branched, and soon
versions arose where Niklas entered a wager with the devil involving
an apple tree... no, wait, that's Halloween. Um... oh yeah, it was
basically a rip-off of Puss'n'boots where Niklas told the devil "I bet
you can't turn into anything you want to," and the devil went "Pssshh,
I totally can," and then the devil turned himself into all manner of
stuff. I don't think it ended with Satan turning into a mouse and
Niklas eating him, though. It was something along the lines of Satan
making himself really small and Niklas trapping him inside his wallet.
If I was Satan, I'd turn myself into a razor blade and cut my way out,
but I guess they didn't have razor blades back then. Plus, Satan's
pretty dumb in stories like that, it's almost like someone was out to
give him a bad rep. Anyway, Niklas told the devil he'd let him out on
one condition: that he'd run around on Christmas and give presents to
all the good children in the world. To which the devil replied "Well,
okay, I guess."
there are even more versions of the story. There's an alternative
version where it in fact is Kristelkind, more commonly known as baby
Jesus, who delivers the presents, which doesn't even make sense. I
mean, he was adult in the Bible. Then again, you can be both Mario
AND baby Mario in Mario Kart on the Gamecube. Which... which
doesn't explain as much as it further muddles. Let's not deal with
Another sidekick of Saint Niklas's is Black Pete, a token black guy
who was assigned to deliver coal to bad kids. This guy became as
popular as wildfire all over Europe, and even has a card game named
after him (which involves punishment by blackface). Obviously, the
Saint Niklas continuity was all over the place, and even though
Infinite Chrisis was supposed to bring some order to all this, it only
left people more confused. I mean, do the Bizarros exist now or what?
let's backtrack about seven hundred years. The Vikings were pretty big
around the year 1000 (of course, being heathens, they didn't KNOW
it was the year 1000), and they had also figured out that things
started to get brighter around December. Which was a perfect
opportunity for a big party. This festivity, jul or yule, was pretty
nuts. I mean, do you remember the party in Weird Science where the
piano flew up the chimney and a motorcycle gang trashed the house and
a nuclear missile materialized in the middle of the living room and
Anthony Michael Hall got laid? That was peanuts to Viking Christmas.
There was fighting and vomiting, kids got alcohol poisoning, animals
and slaves were killed, people had sex in the pool... pandemonium, I
Saint Olav christened Norway in its own blood, only two major elements
from the Norse jul survived and was absorbed into international
Christmas traditions: drunk husbands kicking their wives in the face
and the nisser. These nisser (singular nisse) were little people (not
to be confused with people with dwarfism) who very much resemble the
Irish brownies (not to be confused with the tasty treats) and American
garden gnomes (not to be... wait, that one's pretty straightforward).
They'll keep the horses happy and make sure bad things don't happen
around farms if appeased, but if they feel unappreciated they'll start
fucking stuff up. One way to keep them in check is to give them
something to eat, and it's especially important to give them porridge
on Christmas. You should also never expose them to bright light, and
never ever get them wet.
In addition to this the Swedes had their own variation, but they got
it all wrong and made up this shit about a goat walking around around
giving presents on Christmas. Seriously, come on, people. Where's the
goat supposed to get the presents from? Did it make it with his
opposable thumbs? No, because it doesn't HAVE opposable thumbs.
Did it buy it with his goat money? Which it earned by delivering
packages in Goat-eborg? I'm not buying it, guys.
you have it. Santa's part Saint Niklas, part Jesus, part baby Jesus
(or baby Mario, I got a bit turned around up there), part Satan,
part... well, goat, I guess. I don't see how, but who knows what he
looks like under that getup. Which, along with his love for porridge,
he got from the nisser. And before you start going on about Coca Cola
designing him, they sorta did but mostly didn't. That's kind of like
saying Disney designed Pocahontas. This has been the story of Santa
Claus, all gravy and with no factual errors whatsoever. Merry
Christmas, I'll see you next Easter. Wait, Easter of 2008.