Cohesive Holiday Myth
The Sceptic, 20 Dec1999
For many reasons, I have grown to absolutely despise this time
of year. Being naturally bad-tempered, while those around me are busy with commerce
and joy, all I perceive is more inanity and shallowness in people whom I am
barely able to tolerate during the other eleven months of the year. In last
year's holiday message, I wrote "... I will not address the possibly
absurd association between the birth of Jesus and that much older holiday
celebrated on or near the winter solstice." This year, I'm going to ignore
it again, in favor of "correcting" another previously incongruous
Are you one of those persons that have confused your children
about whether this season is about a certain birth in Bethlehem or some jocular
fat man wearing red? If so, I've put this together for you to share with your
was a Jewish carpenter and a maker of wooden toys. He was also a wee bit upset
that Mary, his teenaged fiancée, was noticeably pregnant, particularly since he
wasn't the one responsible for her condition. On the other hand, Joseph was a
kind-hearted guy and didn't want to embarrass her in public. He seriously
considered sending her elsewhere, where nobody who knew her would understand
was thinking through his options when he went to bed and so he dreamed about a
shining being with wings -- an angel or fairy or something -- which suggested
that Mary hadn't actually been unfaithful to him. "She's a cute little
thing after all," this winged creature said, "and it was the Spirit
of Nik − the Norse deity who is also called Odin − who put it to
her. She's going to have a son and you should name this boy Jesus Saint Nik
Claus. He is destined to save people from economic depression by stimulating
the economy each year, and they'll get a lot of really cool presents and stuff
Joseph woke up, he thought to himself, 'She is pretty cute, empty-headed as
she is, but what the heck? That story about Old Nik isn't half-bad. With a
father like that, this kid might have special powers that could come in handy.'
Augustus was bored, which is a dangerous thing for a powerful Roman emperor. He
decided to inconvenience his subjects by decreeing that they should all be
taxed and counted. This required that everyone had to visit his or her
ancestral home towns to be accounted for properly. Joseph, being a descendent
of David, traveled back to Bethlehem in Judea with Mary who −by this time
− was very pregnant.
with everybody spread from here to yonder coming back to Bethlehem, the hotels
were booked solid. Mary went into labor so they ended up taking shelter in a
barn. She delivered her first son, wrapped him up tight all in fur, from his
head to his foot and -- exhausted and probably disoriented from the labor --
laid the poor boy down in a soot covered hay box.
That same night, outside town,
herders of sheep and stunted caribou were out in the fields keeping watch and
having a good time with some dried Amanita muscaria. They had well and truly
gotten a good deal for these magic mushrooms from some Nordic traders. The
herders had so many of the little beauties, they were even feeding them to a
few of the caribou to see if it would make them fly like the traders had
claimed. At some point, having consumed a fair number of them, they saw an
angel. The Amanita was making them paranoid, but the angel told them not to be afraid.
"I've got some good news," the angel said. "In the city of David
a savior of the economy has been born. You'll find him − get this −
lying in a hay trough, dressed all in fur from his head to his foot, and his
clothes all tarnished with ashes and soot."
if this wasn't enough, suddenly there were a whole host of angels singing. When
this vision finally faded, they checked on the eight caribou to which they'd
fed the mushrooms. Sure enough, they were bucking and prancing and ready to go.
So they hitched up a cart to the beasts and decided to fly into Bethlehem and
check out the angel's story.
predicted, they found the barn and Joseph and Mary and a sooty little baby
lying in a hay trough dressed in fur. His droll little mouth was drawn up like a
bow, and the beard of his chin was as white as the snow. He had a broad face
and a little round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
brought nothing else for an impromptu baby shower, they left the cart, the
eight caribou and a big sack of magic mushrooms so the animals would be able to
fly for the foreseeable future. Everywhere the sheep and caribou herders went
after that, they told everybody they met about the angels and the savior baby
in a hay box, leaving a lot of people scratching their heads.
sized up his new caribou driven flying cart and said to himself, "I knew
this magic baby gig was going to pay off."
a group of Oriental magicians saw a really bright star in their skies. They
consulted the Tao Te Ching and astrological tables and whatnot, and figured out
what it meant. They paid a visit to Herod, the king of Judea. When they
arrived, they immediately asked where the magical newborn king of the Jews
might be, so they could worship him. "Hold on a sec," Herod said.
"What's this about a king?" Being a king himself and answering only
to Rome, he didn't like this idea of another king in his province. The
magicians attempted to explain about the star and what they knew about the
matter. "Uh...I'll get back to you on that shortly," Herod said.
called his advisers together and asked them where Jesus Saint Nik Claus would
be born, according to the old prophecies. They looked through their books and
found a reference to a governor being born in Bethlehem. So he called back the
magicians and said, "When you find him, give me a yell so I can worship
him too." They left Herod's palace to find that the star they had seen had
moved its position to be over a house in Bethlehem that Joseph had finally
secured − a baby-beacon, of sorts.
visited Joseph and Mary and her baby and brought a big fat sack full of stuff,
including gold and a lot of valuable aromatic gum resins from Asian and African
trees, suitable for making perfume and incense. Before the visit was ended, one
of them had a disturbing dream about Herod and figured out that being as he was
a king, he probably wasn't all that serious about wanting to worship another
king − especially a baby king. They took another route home, out of
Herod's way, so the king wouldn't be able to stop them with questions that they
didn't want to answer.
the magicians were gone, Joseph had another shiny winged angel-fairy dream
again. This time, the creature said to him, "Get off your ass and into
your new caribou cart. Take your young wife and kid and get out of town. Flee!
Herod the Great intends to stay Great, and that won't be by allowing possible
successors -- even the bottle-fed kind − in his own back yard."
Joseph and Mary grabbed their tools, their clothes, and the big bag of gifts
from the magicians and pitched it all into the cart and hitched the caribou to
it. They carefully strapped down Jesus Saint Nik Claus. They didn't make very
good time at first, until Joseph remembered to feed some magic mushrooms to the
animals. "Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On Comet, on
Cupid! on Donner and Blitzen!" he started yelling at them. Given their
spirited hallucinogenic behavior, these names seemed appropriate. All three of
them were excited when the cart rose up into the air, especially the baby. His
eyes − how they twinkled! His dimples - how merry! His cheeks were like
roses, his nose like a cherry!
the Roman Empire extended all over the known world, and they wanted to get away
from any possibility of being found, they headed to Lapland, also known as the
North Pole. They got out of Judea just in time too. Herod the Great was really
peeved that the magicians hadn't come back like he'd asked, so he had every
baby under two years of age in the Bethlehem area killed. Being king, this was
his privilege, of course.
Finnish elves helped take care of the family at first. Eventually Joseph set up
a toy workshop, employing many of the elves in making many fine products
destined for R. H. Macy and Sears, Roebuck and Company.
Jesus Saint Nik Claus turned thirty, he changed his name to Jesus Christ −
in case Herod the Great was still looking to kill him -- and the whole family
moved back to Israel for awhile. Fortunately, Herod the Great had succumbed to
the screaming willies shortly after the murder of the children. Unfortunately,
there were more Herods where that one came from.
did a lot of wonderful magical things for the people, healing and forgiving
them, walking on water, and turning it into wine. However, as he became more
popular, the powers that be started feeling threatened again so they killed
him. Of course, Jesus didn't stay dead for very long and that's why we
he was resurrected, Jesus moved back to Lapland (also known as the North Pole)
and began to go by his middle names, Saint Nik. The 'Nik' part in particular
got him a lot more respect among the Scandinavians on his true Father's side of
the family than he had gotten from his mom's Jewish side. He took over Joseph's
toy making business with a vengeance, married a nice Finnish girl and settled
down where he lives to this day.
a year, after the Yule fire festival in December and in remembrance of all the
Bethlehem babies who died, Saint Nik loads up his sack with toys -- the same
sack in which the Oriental magicians brought his presents. He hitches up his
stunted caribou to his old cart − converted to a sleigh for winter
travel. He feeds each of them a handful of Amanita muscaria and flies off to
distribute gifts to all the deserving Christian boys and girls in the world.
If that isn't the real story of Christmas, it certainly takes into
account the major elements that would be otherwise bewilderingly unrelated.