You've probably learned by now that Santa Claus is fictional - a Coca-Cola guzzling advertising icon designed to sell seasonal crap to the masses.
If only. If only.
Santa Claus is all too real - it's a part of the conspiracy, you see. The truth is colder than you could guess.
Well bundle up ladies, gents, and kids. Have I got a holiday tale for you! Huddle close, get yourself next to the roaring fireplace, and keep a sidearm handy just in case something bursts out of it.
With a ravening eye so clever and quick, I knew in a moment it must be Saint Nick.
What is Christmastime about, really?
If thoughts of shepherds, wise men, and holy infants tender and mild came to mind, you could be forgiven. But late December was a celebrated season far before the time of Jesus - Christmas predates Christ by centuries, under other names, among other peoples...
You see, the planet's path through dark spaces brings it to a special position during that time of year - when the sun, the light, is at its weakest relative to our mortal vantage here on earth. Ancient peoples from the Gaelic traditions and before celebrated and feared this time above all others.
Winter's Solstice was the original reason for the season. Pagan religions revered it as the time of death, the time when restraints against the nether-realm were at their weakest. The spirits of the dead were thought to be unleashed at this time, to wander the earth seeking out the lights of the living. Considered dangerous, the ancients developed many tactics for warding off these nocturnal roamers - such as the constant clanging of bells and gongs, to frighten evil spirits away. Bells were associated with death in many ancient belief systems - in fact, the Celts believed that burying small, brass jingle bells near a corpse would result in it's unnatural resurrection.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day...
The powers of necromancers and witches were thought to be elevated during this time of darkness - and in that age, witches, fair folk, and other creatures were considered to be matters of fact, to be respected and sometimes feared.
But, as we know, the Solstice would not remain the province of paganism forever.
With the Dark Ages stretching onward, Christianity was aggressively spreading from it's fallen Roman epicenter throughout Gaul, Normandy, the black forests of Germania, and beyond. The Old Ways were consumed, in one manner or another, by the new chosen faith. Pagan beliefs and peoples were either tortured out of existence, or converted. Holy days and celebratory feasts were subverted and formed into new amalgams, neither Christian nor heathen, but a forced union of the two.
Around 300 AD, one agent of this spreading religious order is known to us today as Saint Nikolas, the Bishop of Myra, one of the cities of Lycia. The Bishop of Myra was widely recognized for his kindness and generosity, especially for his habit of 'secretly' bestowing gifts to others. Thus are we familiar with the Saint Nick of legend - leaving surprise gifts for children, coins in shoes, trinkets in stockings. However, to his contemporaries the Bishop was known for more than his generosity.
Nikolas of Myra was a worker of miracles, supernatural feats, and inexplicable displays that led him to be dubbed the "Wonderworker." If labeled a pagan sorcerer, such feats would have been attributed to Satanic influence, and resulted in a slow execution. But safe under his official robes, Nikolas was given awe and respect by the pious as he displayed his Wonders. His reputation was secure in his lifetime.
But life cannot go on forever. At least, not for all of us.
During 343 AD, the good Bishop knew he was approaching death, and none of his Wonders could save him. The core promise of Christianity is, of course, the everlasting immortality of one's soul in heaven. Immortality - to breathe and see and speak and laugh and eat forever - has been the coveted bauble at the heart of every selfish man since time before time. Which is why, even before Christ, there were a myriad of techniques, formulas, and incantations for grasping the eternal, denying the grave. Even after Christianity, a tainted believer, driven to desperation, would perchance consider cutting a bargain with the ungod, the repository of wickedness himself, the Devil.
Nikolas's unorthodox insurances are not detailed, but history relates his appeals to God for salvation upon death. And, in fact, history explicitly relates his success in this venture.
Saint Nikolas was visited by powerful beings, angels, who assured him that they would see his soul escorted through eternity after death. If they were truly angels, perchance they lied - because the death of Nikolas has no historic record.
To be certain, there was a funeral; A grand procession, attended by all, that wound through the streets of Myra in mournful honor of the 'Wonderworker'. There was even a tomb with, presumably, a body, laid to rest in a place of honor in the temple.
And that is when the strange goings-on began.
Something began to seep from the marble coffin. Something marvelous. At a loss to identify the otherworldly substance, later scholars dubbed it "mana". Although mortal knowledge could no more define its composition than it's source, one thing was known of this bizarre discharge: It had supernatural healing properties.
Saint Nikolas's tomb became a thriving pilgrimage destination, as hordes flocked to seek communion with the wondrous necrotic emulsions.
It is around this time that the legends surrounding "Saint Nick" began to take a darker turn.
Rather than sly winks and secret gifts, tales of terror in the night begin to spread throughout rural Europe. Tales of an invading creature that would desecrate homes, wrenching "naughty" children shrieking from their blankets to be stuffed into a rough sack and dragged into the freezing night - never to be seen again. The names of this dark fiend began to vary - Krampus, Ruebezahl, Hans Trapp, Black Peter, Knecht Ruppert... But, throughout legend, all were linked somehow to Saint Nick.
In some stories these creatures, portrayed with red lolling tognues and black horns, were Santa's associates. Sometimes they would make his decisions, sometimes they would be in charge of punishing wicked children while he rewarded the good, and in some legends, people whispered that Saint Nick and his demons were one and the same.
The official histories, under the oversight of the powerful Vatican, ensured that the angelic, gift giving, saintly Bishop Nikolas would be remembered for his piety and service to the church.
Tales of a supernatural abductor were the stuff of peasants. An enchanted child thief who knew no earthly boundaries, not barred shutters, not locked doors, who could penetrate through the cracks in the wall or down the chimney, about the eaves or within the chinks, such accounts were for the countrymen to be concerned with.
Other legends plagued the countrymen of Europe during these ages. Accounts of terror in the darkness, of corpses who had forgotten death, returning to wreak terror upon their loved ones under the cover of night, of shambling things which knew nothing of the sun. It was regular practice in those days predating embalming to take practical precautions against such reanimations - corpses were exhumed and bound, or decapitated, or dismembered and reburied, burned, stopped. In the dark ages, vampires were no fireside legends, they were an accepted and pervasive problem of daily life.
Today, as with other things, we know far better than our foolish predecessors.
And, of course, we know that Santa Claus is made up. Living - but fictional.
Santa Claus is not fictional, Santa Claus is a vampire!
The most successful vampire of all time - THINK ABOUT IT!
He's immortal, for one. He only comes in the dead of night.
Hellooo? Immortals that shun the sunlight? Shouldn't this be ringing some bells already?
He can levitate, move himself at will across the earth, is untouched by cold or high-altitude low-oxygen conditions. He makes his abode in a hidden Arctic fortress - a freezing, inhospitable environment which is plunged into perpetual twilight, without a glimpse of the sun, for half of the entire year. He can telepathically divine the actions and intent of any individual he sets his mind to.
...He knows when you've been sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows if you've been bad or good, so dear god this fucker is creepy!
He can enter any home by supernatural means - so long as he has an invitation.
Can you think of any homes Santa Claus might be welcome in? How about ALL OF THEM?!
If you were a vampire who needed an invitation to penetrate the domiciles of the living, what would be the holy grail achievement of your existence? The ultimate ruse?
The good, long-dead but not-really sorcerous Saint Nikolas is the first vampire in history to master the benefits of branding and good public relations.
The beard hides the fangs! The red clothes mask the blood! Have you heard of those vampires that glitter? Does Christmas feature glittery TINSEL?! And Santa's fat because he GORGES ON VICTIMS AT WILL!
Milk and cookies? Don't be naive!
I'm not saying that Santa sucks blood at every home he visits - or even that he only visits on Christmas night. (That is merely when his powers are at their peak.) But how many people go missing without explanation from their homes every year? How many victims left an open invitation to that fat bastard, only to be surprised in their covers one night by a Jolly Old Elf?
The fiction is self sustaining at this point - but I suspect in the early years of his "rebranding", Saint Nikolas actually did continue his habit of "secretly" giving gifts. Capturing children to manufacture his toys, he would then deliver them to good girls and boys on Christmas night - reinforcing the legend of Good Old Saint Nick just enough that the belief would grow.
Rewarding a handful of unharmed believers so untold masses would open themselves up to his ravages.
As for the abducted "Elves" enslaved to make his next round of toys, I sadly suspect that they are exhausted and consumed within the year - refrigerator snacks used up just in time for the next Christmas harvest.
So, ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, have a happy holiday season. But if you want to survive it, I'd highly recommend you revoke any invites to that Dark Elf.
Stay together. Stay indoors. Keep a warm fire going, have some Christmas cookies to fortify your spirits, and some hollow-point .40 calibers to fortify your position.
You’d better watch out. You’d better not cry. You’d better reload, I’ve told you why.
A 700 year old sorcerous Lycian vampire bishop is coming to town.