Santa Is a Psychedelic Mushroom

Many historians agree that the North American figure of Santa Claus can be traced back to a monk named Saint Nicholas of Myra, a bearded fourth-century Greek Christian with a penchant for charitable giving. St. Nicholas was presumably the basis for the Dutch Sinterklaas, patron saint of children, who donned a big, red cape and rode around on a white horse to visit children on the name day of Saint Nicholas, the sixth of December. According to folklore, Sinterklaas carried a red book in which he recorded a child’s behavior over the past year as having been good or naughty. Sinterklaas is said to have been slowly transformed into modern-day Santa by 1700s Dutch immigrants in the New World.

“But maybe there’s another story worth telling this season—one about a psychedelic mushroom-eating shaman from the Arctic.” That’s Matthew Salton, whose animated short film, Santa Is a Psychedelic Mushroom, presents a different origin story entirely. It’s a compelling narrative, backed by Harvard professors, anthropologists, and esteemed mycologists alike, and it bears an uncanny semblance to the modern tradition of Santa Claus. Read more: www.theatlantic.com/video/index/578959/shaman-santa/

“Santa is a Psychedelic Mushroom” was directed by Matthew Salton (www.matthewsalton.com/) and produced by NYT Op-Docs. It is part of The Atlantic Selects, an online showcase of short documentaries from independent creators, curated by The Atlantic.

Reflect on this video: