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Ho Ho Who?

Suspicious minds make for blue Christmases

by Scott McNutt

Santa Claus: Found on every street corner, in every store front, ubiquitous in song and story, adored and eagerly awaited by all, prime mover behind all we call "Christmas." But how much do we really know about this "jolly old elf," this sprightly Christmas Spirit, this Master of the Seasonal Ceremonies? Who is Santa Claus, really?

To the Dutch he is Sint Klaas. In England, he is known as Father Christmas. In the Netherlands his name is Kerstman. Sicilians know him as La Befana. In China he is called Shengdan Laoren. In Russia, ded moroz. In Spain, Los Reyes Magos. In Finland, Joulupukki. And so on. Around the world he is known by a multitude of identities. But will the real St. Nicholas please stand up? I didn't think so.

Let us consider his characteristics and activities. His home in the North Pole (if such an elusive figure as this calls any place "home") is remote and isolated. He regularly flouts FAA and international air regulations, crisscrossing the globe in his flying sleigh, invading air space with impunity. He must have a passport because he visits countries everywhere. But, since he goes by a different name in each country, he must actually have hundreds of passports, which are all fake, save one. He is a master of disguise. In the United States he is fat. In England he is thin. In some locales he is short, in others tall. In Latin America, he's three wise guys. In Sicily, he's female. And in Finland, given the literal translation of his name (Joulupukki means "Yule Buck"), he is, apparently, a moose.

If we were to consider only these facts and no more, the obvious conclusion would be that "Santa Claus" is, in reality, Osama bin Laden.

However, if we take into account his access to all those fake passports and his mastery of deception, and couple it with his proficiency in breaking and entering, plus his expertise in covert domestic surveillance ("He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake") and add to that his position as Senior Spook of the Season, so to speak, we might conclude that Santa is actually Attorney General John Ashcroft. Or possibly J. Edgar Hoover. At the very least, I think we must concede that the guy has some kind of Federal clearance. Perhaps he was one of the Cubans in on the Kennedy assassination?

On the other hand, his reclusiveness, his penchant for weird clothes and exotic animals, his fondness for music and his absolute obsession with children suggest that St. Nicholas may be Michael Jackson. Then again, consider that, though he leaves gifts when he illegally enters homes, he extorts payment for his largesse in the form of food offerings. And where does the money to buy all those presents come from? His devotees love him, yet fear him ("You better not pout, you better not cry, you better not shout, I'm telling you why..."). When we recall that "St. Nicholas" hails from the Mediterranean, the conclusion is inescapable that Santa Claus, or La Bafana, as she is known in Sicily, is none other than Marlon Brando, the Godfather. Or the Godmother, as the case may be.

Of course, there are other possibilities. Since he's fat, dresses in funky clothes, smokes a pipe containing who knows what, and has legions of devotees, Santa could be Jerry Garcia. Or, given his girth and predilection for infidelity ("I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"), he might be Ted Kennedy.

Clearly, there are many potential candidates for the man behind the mysterious figure whom we call Claus. But after reviewing the evidence, I have come to the conclusion that he is None of the Above. Indeed, once you consider all the facts, one figure stands out from the others. Way out. Who else is adored around the world? Who else is famous for sudden appearances and disappearances? Who else has the wealth and the generosity of spirit to give so much to so many? Who else is welcomed everywhere he appears, despite his peculiarities? Who else is obese, dresses in skin-tight, gaudy outfits, and is duly deputized as a "Federal-Agent-at-Large"? That's right: When Santa climbs out of your chimney Monday night, Elvis will have left the building, folks. Thangyavarrymuch.

December 20, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 51
© 2001 Metro Pulse