You need to know about Christmas’s psychedelic origins

christmas card mushroom kids snow

In the west, people love Christmas more than most other holidays. 

As people adorn their lawns with lights and stores start playing classic Christmas songs, we watch the world transform before our eyes every December.

However, even as Americans work themselves into a frenzy decorating, buying mass-produced gifts, and hosting wholesome family feasts, few people seem to understand or even wonder about this holiday’s origins. 

In modern terms, Christmas is either seen as a Christian holiday or a consumeristic ritual, but its origins are older and far more psychedelic than anyone would expect.

To follow Christmas back its roots, we need to start with a very special fungus.

Amanita Muscaria

In the frozen wilderness of Siberia, ancient people noticed a remarkable occurrence every winter.

Vibrant red and white mushrooms appeared regularly at the base of certain evergreen trees.

Amanita muscaria christmas ornaments
An Amanita Muscaria (top left) and a number of mushroom-themed Christmas ornaments

When shamans began drying the mushrooms and brewing a tea from them, they discovered that the mushroom bestowed enlightening psychedelic visions upon its user. 

The mushroom, now known as Amanita Muscaria, became one of the earliest psychedelic plants used in rituals. 

Nowadays the iconic red and white mushroom is synonymous with psychedelic activity, though that may not have always been the case. 

Many old christmas cards feature red and white mushrooms, often at the base of evergreen trees. 

Chances are the illustrators weren’t aware of the mushroom’s psychedelic properties or its connection to Christmas.

Evergreen connection

Many fungi have symbiotic relationships with specific trees.

Fungi evolved to break down the plant matter unique to different tree species, creating a beautiful interconnected web of life. 

All over the world, Amanita Muscaria grows with various species of evergreen trees.

Conveniently, these trees were also perfect for shamans to hang the mushrooms up to dry. 

An evergreen tree adorned with these colorful caps would look a lot like a modern Christmas tree with its shiny red decorative orbs. 

Christianity vs. the world

While it’s unclear exactly when tree decoration became associated with Christmas, evergreen trees were significant in many early European pagan traditions

Winters were harsh, and people hung evergreen branches in their homes as a reminder that warmer days and bountiful harvests were on the way. 

German Christians were possibly some of the first to make decorated trees a Christmas tradition, and German settlers brought the practice to North America in the 1800s. 

Interestingly enough, Americans initially denounced the process due to its pagan roots. 

Christianity had become extremely puritan by the time it crossed the Atlantic, so many early Americans were stubbornly opposed to anything that seemed overly indulgent or ostentatious.

However, Christians celebrate the birth of their lord and savior at the darkest period of winter.

Even though Christian Christmas was likely created to obfuscate the earlier pagan traditions, the fact remains that most cultures celebrated a ritual of hope and restoration at the peak of winter.

This universal human experience could explain how there are so many parallels and overlapping themes between different winter solstice traditions.

Psychedelic celebration

Siberian shamanistic practices might also explain the tradition of Christmas gift-giving. 

People trusted shamans to prepare the psychedelic Amanita tea and deliver it to the community. 

However, during winter snow would pile up around peoples homes so that they could only be accessed through the roof. 

Shamans would enter your home, climb down, and deliver you a profound gift. 

In the middle of a harsh winter, a psychedelic trip that gave you a wider perspective on life might bring your community closer and make the struggle for survival a bit easier. 

shamans amanita muscaria christmas origin
Two examples of shamanic garb

Translate this to that Santa Claus myth.

In the dead of winter, a magical man climbs down into your house to give you and your family gifts.

Coincidentally, the shamans wore red and white clothing inspired by the Amanita Muscaria. Some even wore fake beards like Santa’s. 

If you think about it, modern Christmas traditions are rather psychedelic. 

People light up an ordinarily dark environment with wild colors and images of mythical creatures. 

The warm soft glow helps you and your family commune despite the bitter cold outside.

Given the presence of Christmas lights at every modern psychedelic rave, it’s easy to imagine that these decorations stimulate a deeply engrained sensory desire. 

The Christian Takeover

Although there’s inadequate evidence to definitively prove this connection, all of the signs are there to tell us that Christmas’ origin is much stranger than most would imagine. 

As Christians took over Europe, they attempted to destroy Pagan traditions so that they’d be the only source of spiritual power. 

While the full transition from shaman to Santa must have taken place gradually, it’s hard to deny all of the parallels between Jolly old St. Nick and an ancient psychedelic tradition.


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