As I write this Father Christmas has already started his rounds and has delivered his gifts to Australia, New Zealand and according to the NORAD Satellite tracking him he is currently emptying his sack in Vietnam.
But what does Santa actually look like? You would think that a large man dressed in a red coat lined with white fur would be quite conspicuous and maybe his clothes should be more appropriately camouflaged for his nocturnal coming.
It is widely believed that the current image of Father Christmas was as a direct result of a cunning and hugely successful advertising campaign by the drinks giant Coca Cola in the early 1900's. Before that images of Father Christmas were more likely to look like some kind of tree elf.
Some of the stories that I have read go back further than that and interestingly originate in the snowy woods of Lapland and northern Russia. It appears that the nomadic inhabitants of these lands lived in small tribes and each group had its own shaman.
During the winter festival the shaman collected the distinctive red and white Fly Agaric toadstools. These were dried and distributed to the people. Ingestion of these fungi lead to hallucinations and it is believed that this made it easier to commune with the gods.
The people lived in special tents called yurts which had a hole in the middle to let the smoke out. The shaman used to deliver these dried toadstools by dropping them through the smoke hole, the chimney. It is also thought the inhabitants of the tent hung their socks by the fire. Therefore it is possible that the 'gifts' fell into the socks or stockings.
The red and white clothing of Father Christmas therefore could have its origin in the mimicry of the toadstool and Father Christmas could be considered a drug dealer, delivering hs gifts in the middle of the night by dropping them through the chimney into the waiting stockings above the fire.
What is more the reindeer love to eat the Fly Agaric toadstools that grow around the base of trees.
Maybe after ingestion of these they truly believe that they can fly.
Merry Christmas everyone.