His eyes how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry.
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broadface and a little round belly
That shook, when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
The Night Before Christmas
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. "The sacred mushroom of these people was the red and white amanita muscaria mushroom, also known as "fly agaric."
So what do you think? Were the reindeer flying high on magic mushrooms? Did magic mushrooms cause Santa's rosy cheeks, cherry nose and Jolly Ho! Ho ! Ho!?
Father Christmas flies on toadstools
New Scientist, 25-Dec-1986/1-JAN-1987 Vol 112 pg 45
"The first travellers in Siberia were shocked by a custom of many of the tribes. The urine of those intoxicated by fly agaric toadstools was collected in bowls or skin bags, to be drunk later. The poorer classes, who could not devote time to gathering the mushroom, drank the urine of the better-off for a little light relief.
Reindeer, which live off lichens in winter, also have a taste for the fly agaric. When Georg Steller, and explorer, visited Kamchatka in 1739 he noted that reindeer were sometimes intoxicated. And the Koryak people, not wanting to miss out on the fun, tie up the animals until their condition subsides. Then they kill them. All who eat the flesh become intoxicated. Johnathan Ott, an American author, suggested in 1976 that use of the fly agaric in the midwinter festivals of deepest Siberia may have inspired some of the imagery of Santa Claus.
The winter dwelling, or yurt, had a smokehole in the roof, supported by a birch pole. At the midwinter festivals, the shaman would enter the yurt through the smokehole, perform his ceremonies and ascend the birch pole and leave. Santa Claus is roben in red and white, the colours of the fly agaric. He enters through the chimney, and he has reindeer.
Santa Claus also flies, an accomplishment that he shares with a shaman. In central Europe fly agaric is linked with chimney sweeps, who have adopted it as their emblem, perhaps echoing the Siberian ritual. The fly agaric has appeared on Christmas cards in central Europe for a long time. In Kocevje, in southern Yugoslavia, people believe that on Christmas night, Wotan, the king of the gods, rides through the woods on a white horse, pursued by devils. The red-and-white flecks of foam from the horse's mouth fall to the ground and grow into next year's crop of fly agaric."
The Influence of Fly Agaric on the Iconography of Father Christmas
"...In summary, it seems quite possible that the traditional image of Father Christmas, described in Livingston's poem and universalized by the Coca Cola Company during the 1930s, has its real origins in shamanistic rituals involving the red and white fly agaric toadstool. From climbing into chimneys and gift giving, to dressing in red and white and flying through the air with reindeers, travellers and storytellers have fused these ancient customs with other pagan traditions and imagery. As is the wont of Christianity, these pagan customs have pragmatically been adapted and integrated into our Christmas traditions." Read entire BBC article
Who knew??? But it definitely gives the iconic "The Night before Christmas" new meaning.