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The Evolution of Santa
by: Pjalne

After a 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.

You can't spell Easter without "Xena". Well you can, but it's not nearly as fun.

But this 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."

This is the same angry stomping devils that can been seen on level 1 of the game "Ghouls 'n Ghosts"

But 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 this bit.

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?

Eat your heart out, Justice League!

Now, 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 tell you.

It's a holiday for the whole family to embrace in the warmth of each other's love.

After 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.


So there 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.

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