I’m presuming gentle reader that, if you’re a regular visitor to the This Is Horror site, then you’re probably going to spend the best part of this season of ‘peace on earth and goodwill to all men’, watching as many of your fellow men get maimed, dismembered and murdered as is humanly possible. Can you think of a better way to spread cheer and good will this holiday than through homicidally wielded power tools? I know I can’t. I mean what says: “God bless us one all” better than a chainsaw to the face?
After all let us not forget that the whole point of this holiday is to celebrate the birth of a man who, 40 years later, is going to be framed for crimes he didn’t commit, sentenced to death by torture only to return from the grave. Sadly not to wreak bloody vengeance on those who betrayed and murdered him. No this guy just goes around telling everyone to be nice to each other and relax because he’s sorted out a place for each of us in an eternal paradise after we’re dead. I mean what kind of an ending is that?
Can you imagine Freddy Krueger or Jason Vorhees getting away with that shit? “Hey you crazy teens, hope you enjoyed your woodland fornication. Don’t be put off by this hockey mask, I’m just back from the dead to help you enjoy a post coital chorus of Kum Ba Yah. Look, Freddy here’s roasted you some marshmallows on the end of his finger blades.” Is it any wonder horror fans seek out as much cinematic carnage as they can? It’s the only way they can deal with their bitter disappointment.
However I’m not here to talk about that bitter disappointment. I’m here to talk about a disappointment so bitter, no one ever washes the taste of it from their mouths. I’m talking about the moment when your parents take you to one side as a young child and say: “You remember we told you the world was a magical place where a jolly fat man on a flying sleigh comes down your chimney and fills a stocking with everything you’ve ever wanted? Well, we lied. There is no Father Christmas. It was your mother and me all along. We bought those presents and we put them in your stocking when you were sleeping. And you remember we told you the house was burgled on Boxing Day while you were at your Gran’s? Well, we lied. We took your presents back to the shop for a refund. And you remember we told you those scary men who came to the door last week were only Santa’s Elves checking to see if you’d been good? Well, we lied. They were loan sharks, calling to collect Daddy’s gambling debts. So you take this Star Wars mug, that’s your only remaining present, and you get out on those cold streets and you beg. Beg like your father’s life depended on it. Because believe me, it does son. It really, really does.”
Okay, perhaps I’m sharing a little too much here, but I’m sure you all get the picture. Being told that Santa Claus doesn’t exist is the original sin of disappointment and disillusion. It’s the first inkling we all get that the world isn’t really the way we’ve been told it is, or think it ought to be. “You remember we told you that if you worked really hard in school, and studied, that you’d get a good job and marry a beautiful woman when you grew up? Well, we lied. The best you can hope for with an honours degree in Media Studies is a mid level job in Telemarketing and your faithless wife is going to leave you for someone whose parents could afford private school fees and guarantee him a proper job when he left higher education.”
“And you remember we told you that ‘sharing is caring’ and ‘it’s better to give than to receive’? Well, we lied. As anyone who makes up the 1% who own 99% of the world’s wealth, and can therefore afford a good tax lawyer, will tell you. And you remember we told you that if you didn’t like what the Government was doing then all you had to do was vote for a new Government and they’d fix all your problems? Well, we lied. Because the entire international political class is in the pay of the 1% who own 99% of everything, the same 1% who went to private school and just ran off with your wife, your savings and all your hopes for a happy future. So you might as well just go home and weep over the corpse of the fat, bearded guy in the red and white suit. Cos he ain’t gonna be riding any reindeers any time soon buddy.”
But what if I told you that your parents got it wrong? What if I told you that Santa Claus really does exist after all? Wouldn’t that give you a bit of hope, in this gloomy winter period, that maybe all those other cherished ideals do have a bit of truth in them after all?
Okay, perhaps you think this is a bit of a tall order, what with all the evidence stacked against the big guy. For a start I’d have to explain how he manages to survive in the most extreme environment on the planet and also manages to avoid any detection by satellite. Then I’d have to explain how he is able to fly across the globe in a reindeer drawn sleigh, entering all types of hostile airspace without once showing up on any radar surveillance. Next I’d have to account for his ability to visit every home on the planet in one night, entirely undetected, in spite of the fact that very few of them have chimneys, but many are covered by CCTV. Such a feat would be hard to accomplish even if he could travel at the speed of light. However, if Einstein is to be believed (and given the amount of proof there is for his theories I see no reason why he shouldn’t be) the longer Santa travelled at the speed of light the further back in time he would go. Till eventually he would be delivering your presents to your great, great grandparents, who probably wouldn’t even own a TV they could plug your PS4 into.
I’ll admit that’s a bit of a stretch, but I think I’m up to the challenge. My answer lies in the mystical practice of Voodoo, currently the world’s fastest growing religion. That’s right Voodoo is a religion, a syncretistic one that embraces and completely accepts Catholic doctrine but blends it with the ancient beliefs of the Yoruba. Followers of Voodoo call themselves ‘servants of the Loa’. The Loa are invisible spirits who intercede, on behalf of God and other divinities, in the affairs of humanity. Many Loa live in the forgotten land of Abomey, (now the area around the African Gulf of Benin) but some live in other remote climes.
The Loa are able to communicate with their followers and speak directly to them by temporarily taking over the body of a Vodouisants during a ceremony. The ceremony will include the singing of songs, dances and the giving of offerings – including alcohol and cakes, during which the Loa will be invited to travel from the sky, where they journey with many magical animal spirits, and to enter the temple (or hounfor) via a Poteau Mitan, a pole (or sometimes chimney) in the centre of the temple, that has been brightly decorated and hung with many ornaments. The Loa can visit many of their followers at one time, all over the world, moving them to act in accordance with the energies and principles that they embody.
This belief is not unique to Voodoo. It is shared by those who practice the Yoruba, Lucumi and Santeria religions and serve the Osha or Orisha. It’s also central to the religion of Shinto whose adherents worship Kami, elemental spirits of nature, who can also be the spirits of entire clans and even important individual ancestors (just as many Loas and Osha are). The saints of Catholicism can also be said to operate in exactly the same fashion, important former personages who believers can call upon through prayer and ritual to intercede in their lives. I mean no disrespect in this comparison. One of the reasons that Voodoo was able to embrace Catholicism so fully was because it recognised the saints as Loas and incorporated all of them into its belief systems.
Which brings us to one saint in particular – Saint Nicholas, better known as Santa Claus to you and me. The 4th century Bishop of Myra who now, legend has it, inhabits a mystic region of the North Pole. Who leaves his home once a year to visit the homes of all the little boys and girls who have served him well and kept off his naughty list by being good. Who flies through the air in the company of mystical animals. Reindeer whose names children the world over celebrate in song and dance, so they’ll come and visit their homes. Reindeers to whom they make offerings on Christmas eve in the form of carrots. Not to mention the mince pies or the glass of sherry (alcohol and cakes) they leave for Santa for when he comes down the chimney from the sky. A chimney that has been brightly decorated in the same colours as a Poteau Mitan. Then parents all over the world are filled with the spirit of Santa, sometimes even dressing as him, to fill their children’s stockings and do his bidding.
Yes my friends, I’m arguing that Santa Claus is a Loa. That’s how he’s been visiting your homes, your parent’s homes, their parent’s homes and everyone else’s homes all these years. That’s how he’s been able to accomplish the near miraculous for such a long time and how he’ll go on doing it for as long as we all continue to invoke him.
I have to confess that I was so traumatised when my parents finally admitted, in the face of persistent and logical questioning, that they’d been systematically lying to me for years, that I determined not to do the same thing with my own children. I told them that Santa is a game that grown ups play to make Christmas more fun and the whole thing is simply harmless make-believe. My daughters completely refused to accept this. “Don’t be silly Daddy,” they told me. “Of course he’s real.” It was their huge capacity for belief, in the face of my total denial, that eventually inspired me to rethink my whole position on Santa. In fact, you probably have them to thank for this month’s column.
“Okay Uncle Jasp”, you may be saying at this juncture. “You’re telling me that Santa is real because he’s some ancient invisible spirit that possesses mums and dads all over the world once a year, so they’ll give presents to their children on his behalf. That’s not quite the killer argument I was expecting if I’m honest.”
Fair enough, I would say in response. I can quite understand that, on the face of it, asking you to believe in intangible forces that you can’t see, that can take hold of millions of people at one time, might be a little difficult to believe at first. Especially when I say that these forces are personified by a once living person.
However, I would ask you to consider other intangible forces that I’m quite sure you do believe in, forces such as ‘Love’ and ‘Hope’ and ‘Kindness’. Forces that I’m certain you’ve seen take hold of millions of people, not just during festive seasons, but during times of social change and when our help is needed by those facing calamity in other parts of the world. It’s not unknown for living people to represent and inspire these forces in the popular consciousness either. You only have to think of the compassion that Princess Diana came to stand for upon her untimely death. Or the wisdom and courage for which Nelson Mandela has become a figurehead.
If you can believe in Nelson Mandela, Lady Diana and the positive forces they inspire, why can’t you believe in Santa? No really, think about it for a minute, why can’t you? And if you can believe in Santa Claus why can’t you believe in the possibility of a better world? One in which unfairness, injustice and inequality are not the norm. A world in which simple acts of kindness, pure intentions and good will towards everyone, the real spirit of this season, really can change things for the better?
I don’t care if it’s a lame ending for a horror story, it’s still the best possible ending to the Greatest Story Ever Told. If it’s good for these next 12 days then it’s good for the other 353 of the year. Whatever your belief system my friends, that’s the real meaning behind this holiday season. So pass the chainsaw and ‘God bless us one and all!’
Trust your Uncle Jasp on this. You know it makes sense.
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