“He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake.” Is there more to these lyrics than any of us ever realised?
There are people out there who believe that Santa Claus was invented by the Illuminati to distract us from the true meaning of Christmas and bolster corporations by getting us to spend our money. In essence, the right jolly old elf is one big brainwashing tool.
The people who peddle this particular conspiracy theory are usually hardline evangelical Christians who believe that the Illuminati is a Satan-worshipping secret society on a mission to wipe out the Church. They point out the similarities between the names ‘Santa’ and ‘Satan’. Literally the same letters in a different order. And the traditional colour of Satan is red, just like Santa’s suit. Oh, and one conspiracy theorist has claimed that “Claus” is the Old English word for “hoof-claws”. You know, like the Devil’s.
Could there be truth to this? I suppose the first step is to take a look at what the Illuminati is. Historically, it was a real organisation. It was a secret society founded in Bavaria in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt. Weishaupt was an anti-clerical professor who sought to limit the Church’s power and influence over public life, promote equality and freedom, and ultimately replace religion with rationalism (all sound like pretty sensible goals to me).
In the 1780s the Illuminati was stamped out by a government crackdown on all secret societies. However, about a decade later, conspiracy theorists started speculating that the Illuminati had survived and was trying to orchestrate an anti-Church revolution in Europe. Rumours of an Illuminati conspiracy have persisted to this day and got a particularly major resurgence in the 1990s thanks to the internet.
Theorists claim that the Illuminati is conspiring to rule the world through the establishment of an authoritarian world government, aka the ‘New World Order’. Many believe that the Illuminati is made up of high-ranking politicians, business leaders and even Hollywood celebrities who get together to decide global policies. Policies that invariably involve weakening the influence of Christianity and lining the pockets of the elite. These are the people who believe that Santa was a product of their machinations. According to them he was manufactured to make people submit to corporate greed and buy, buy, buy, all the while forgetting that Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus.
To be honest, it doesn’t sound impossible. What we now need to do take a look at the origins of Santa Claus. Is it possible that he was fabricated by the Illuminati? Well, sorry to burst your bubble, conspiracy theorists, but no. Santa’s a mishmash of traditions surrounding the historical figure of Saint Nicholas from Myra and the mythical figures of Sinterklaas from the Netherlands and Father Christmas from Britain. And those traditions are centuries older than the Illuminati.
Saint Nicholas, firstly, was a bishop in the 4th century from the ancient Greek town of Myra. He became famous for gift-giving (in one particularly famous story he threw a bag of coins through a window and they landed in a stocking left by the fire to dry—sound familiar?) and was later named the patron saint of children.
Sinterklaas is based on Saint Nicholas (‘Sinterklaas’ being the Dutch word for ‘Saint Nicholas’) and wears a long red cape over a white bishop’s alb, rides a white horse and carries a big, red book listing the children who’ve been good or naughty. He’s assisted by Zwarte Piet, who traditionally delivered presents down the chimney for Sinterklaas and beat naughty children with a broom.
Father Christmas is a separate figure entirely and can be traced back to the Celts. Initially known as the Holly King, he was a Celtic winter god who wore a wreath of holly. When the Saxons conquered Britain in the 5th and 6th centuries, a new figure emerged called King Frost or King Winter, who promised a milder winter if you were kind to him. When the Vikings invaded, they brought their own figure, namely the Norse god Odin (played by Anthony Hopkins—and looking a tad like Father Christmas—in the Marvel films), who had a white beard and rode the midwinter sky on a flying horse, bringing people gifts. By the 15th and 16th centuries these influences had combined to create Father Christmas, an old man with a beard, hat and long, open robe associated with feasting, drinking and merry-making at Christmas time.
So the conspiracy theorists are way off the mark on this one. The Illuminati couldn’t have invented Santa because all these ancient figures predate it. And this thing about “Santa” being a deliberate twist on “Satan”. Peeps need to do their homework. Everyone knows that “Santa Claus” is the Americanisation of “Sinterklaas”. It happened after the descendents of Dutch settlers in America resurrected the Sinterklaas tradition. Over time, this figure merged with the British Father Christmas so that nowadays Father Christmas and Santa Claus are synonymous.
And having researched the etymology of “Claus”, I can say with confidence, whoever says that “Claus” is the Old English word for “hoof-claws” is talking out of their arse.
What’s plain to me is that those peddling the “Santa’s an Illuminati weapon” conspiracy are butt-hurt because for millions of people nowadays Christmas has sweet bugger all to do with Mary popping out Jesus in a stable. Since Christians hijacked most Christmas traditions from pagans anyway (Jesus wasn’t even born on December 25th—the pagan sun god Mithra was), it’s only fair that we non-Christians are taking it back.
There’s also a hilarious irony to these people accusing the Illuminati of brainwashing, since organised religions are the biggest brainwashing machines of them all.
So, that’s that. Merry Christmas to all. And to all a good night. (Except those who think Santa’s a product of the Illuminati, who can go climb back under their rocks.)