Can Magic Mushrooms Explain Christmas Traditions? Believe It or Not

Can the story of Santa and his flying reindeer be traced to an unlikely source: hallucinogenic or “magic” mushrooms?

According to one legend, the shaman, or priest, in Siberian and Arctic regions came bearing gifts, a bag full of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

The hallucinogenic Amanita Muscaria, also known as the Holy Mushroom, is a large red and white spotted mushroom. A shaman would dry them, load them into a big sack, and then during the winter solstice, the shaman would go from one house to the other, delivering these ‘gifts’ to the people.

These shamans wore red and white robes and hats to honor the Amanita Muscaria mushroom. Just like our modern-day Santa.

The homes, mostly teepees, would be blocked by the snow, so the shaman would toss the bags in the smoke hole at the top. Perhaps the first chimneys.

Guess where these mushrooms were found. Yes, under evergreen trees. According to, Amanita Muscaria is found throughout the Northern hemisphere under conifers and birch trees, exactly like red and white presents under a green Christmas tree.

In addition, in order to reduce the potential toxicity of Amanita Muscaria, shamans would hang these mushrooms on the tree branches in order for them to dry, just like the colorful ornaments we now hang on our Christmas trees.

Deep winter would have also been a time of physical and spiritual hardship for people in the Arctic regions, due to the lack of sunlight. So, shaman making the rounds to the tents of Siberian tribes-people and handing out “gifts” of dried Amanita mushrooms would sound, at the least, a reason to celebrate. A dose of the euphoric Amanitas may have been the best gift at that time.

Those consuming the mushrooms may have hallucinated that the grazing reindeer were flying. Since reindeer were considered spirit animals, the combination of the magic mushrooms and reindeer would make for a great “flying reindeer” story.

The origin of all our favorite Christmas traditions may, in fact, be more ‘magical’ than we thought.

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