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Santa Claus Was a Shroom-Tripping Shaman

I was inspired to make a holiday weed feast after finding out that Santa Claus's surprising origins include psychedelic mushrooms, reindeer piss, and shamanism.

Jesus never saw a snowflake, at least not during his 33 years on Earth. And old Saint Nicholas resided in what's now Demre, Turkey—where the average temperature in late December tops 50 degrees. So why the heck does Santa Claus live at the North Pole and ride a sleigh?

Well, for starters, he didn't always. In the earlier racist Dutch tradition, Sinterklaas made his home in Spain, and traveled to the Netherlands (by boat!) once a year, about a month before Christmas, to menace, abuse and perhaps kidnap disobedient children—aided and abetted by his gang of dark-skinned Arab slaves. (Stop me if you've heard this one, and if not, David Sedaris tells it much better than anyone else ever could.)


Santa Claus as we know him, meanwhile, by all accounts, derives largely from the imagination of Clement Clark Moore, a Professor of Divinity at the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church in New York City. In 1823, Moore, a wealthy aristocrat, anonymously published the poem A Visit From St. Nicholas, with its iconic opening: 'Twas the night before Christmas… And from then on, a wide range of divergent religious, historic and folkloric traditions—from Sinterklaas and St. Nicholas, to the pagan god Odin, and the British legend of Father Christmas—were forever melded into the "traditional" Annual Gift Man we now encounter in a million shopping malls around the world.

But what if there's another Santa Claus antecedent, one that explains some of the story's more unusual aspects?

Like, "Why flying reindeer?" for starters.

Donald H. Pfister, Professor of Systematic Botany and Curator of the Farlow Library and Herbarium at Harvard University, believes Santa's reindeer "fly" because they're high on Amanita muscaria, a psychedelic mushroom that's easily identified by its iconic bright red top with white spots. And not only are Dancer, Prancer, Donner, Blixen and Rudolph (especially Rudolph) all high on 'shrooms, according to Pfister, who gives an annual lecture on the subject to his introductory botany students, so too is the portly old-timer manning the reigns.

You know, the one dressed in a bright red suit with white trim, topped off by a bright red cap with a white ball on top—an ensemble that's remarkably similar to the traditional fur-trimmed jackets Siberian shamans wear to this day when collecting Amanita muscaria for ceremonial use.


"As the story goes, up until a few hundred years ago, these practicing shamans would collect Amanita muscaria (the Holy Mushroom), dry them and then give them as gifts on the winter solstice [December 21st]," John Rush, an anthropologist and instructor at Sierra College in Rocklin, California explained to "Because snow is usually blocking doors, there was an opening in the roof through which people entered and exited, thus the chimney story."

Mostly found under pine trees—just like the ones we bring indoors, decorate garishly and put presents beneath—Amanita muscaria mushrooms are mildly poisonous if you eat them. So, according to Rush, "sometimes people would drink the urine of the reindeer, as the hallucinogenic compounds are excreted this way, without some of the harmful chemicals present in the fungi."

Which means, to recap: Santa is an arctic shaman who dresses up like a magic mushroom, follows reindeer through the woods until they happen upon some 'shrooms, and then waits for the winter solstice to break into your house in the middle of the night and gift you dried magic mushrooms, psychedelic reindeer urine, or both. Then your family spends the day inside, tripping balls and gazing in wonder at the pine tree you dragged inside and festooned with ornaments.

Which admittedly sounds a little unusual when you put it that way.

Since Santa Claus apparently enjoys indulging in something a little more mind-expanding than rum balls from time to time, The Weed Eater decided to put out milk and pot cookies this year on Christmas Eve, cleverly decorated to look like old St. Nick's favorite fungus. Of course, given the all-nighter Santa typically pulls delivering good cheer on his hallowed journey around the world, it seemed wise to make the cookies kind of mild when it comes to THC. And it also seemed advisable to test-drive them first—lest these magic mushroom-shaped weed cookies end up putting Santa temporarily out of commission, leaving yours truly responsible for inadvertently "stealing Christmas," or at the very least denying millions of children their rightful presents.


Anyway, the treats themselves are nothing too special—just basic sugar cookies—but fresh-baked, and paired with a stiff egg nog or a nice warm glass of reindeer piss, they taste like yuletide itself, with just a hint of the Christmas "trees" infused into the butter coming through. And they're not too strong. So if you'd like to get on Saint Nick's good side this year, do try these at home, or use the same ganja butter recipe to bake up something even better on the #PsychedelicSanta theme.

Then wow your friends and (cool) relatives with the true story of what really makes the big guy go "Ho, ho, ho …"

But as a proud Pizza Bagel (half-Italian, half-Jewish), The Weed Eater has the good fortune to celebrate both Christmas and Chanukah. So back in 2012, when Mrs. Weed Eater authored The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook, her now classic tome included a cannabis-infused take on laid-back Latkes that was actually adapted from an old family recipe.

MAKE: Laid-Back Latkes

"Grandma never fried her Chanukah latkes in ganja oil," the cookbook's description of these delicious deep-fried holiday treats begins, "but the wonderful smell of them cooking saturated the house so completely that it made for an ideal time to sneak up into the attic for a few stealthy puffs with the other stoner cousins. Even better, by the time we returned to the kitchen—lit up like a menorah on the eighth night—those deliciously golden-brown potato pancakes would be waiting for us in all their splendor, served with applesauce and sour cream."

Best of all, unlike chopped liver and gefilte fish, Grandma's latkes are actually crowd-pleasers, with or without the secret ingredient. So whether you're in the tribe or just love the idea of getting high off a nice pile of extra-crunchy latkes, check out the recipe, twist up some doobies, and then get rolling on making a batch—after first stocking up on a nice fat sack of Kosher Kush. Just remember that no matter how high you get, you've still got to spin your dreidel on the lefthand side!

Note: Cannabis is definitely kosher—especially if it's medicinal—at least, assuming you've got the right Rabbi.