Christmas is a time for giving. A time when we are filled with the warmth of jingle bells, children’s laughter and very boozy mulled wine. What other time of year do you spend as much time pondering what would put a smile on the faces of your nearest and dearest? And then rushing round the shopping centre, cursing under your breath, when said items are sold out?
It’s true! Despite what every Christmas movie tells us — with their holiday cheer — sometimes the giving part of Christmas is the most stressful part of all. Will your sister like that necklace? Will your uncle just re-gift that sandwich toaster to you again next year? What if your little cousin cries and screams and throws that mermaid Barbie at your head because the tail is the wrong colour?! There are just so many variables. Not to mention having to act grateful when you get given socks AGAIN.
But, there was a time when Christmas really was about kindness. About giving to the needy, not the greedy. But this insane festive gift-athon must have started somewhere right?
Here Comes Santa Claus…
Well, it all stems from the big man with the sleigh. Yep Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle— you know the guy. But he didn’t spring from nowhere to throw a generosity one-upmanship competition. So then where on earth…?
Turns out, as seems to usually be the way with our holiday figures, Santa is an amalgamation of many different characters, hailing from Scandinavian, Germanic, and Middle Eastern countries, among others. However, the strongest link with today’s Mr Claus is St Nicholas, the Patron Saint of children and sailors, who was born around 280 AD in what is modern day Turkey. He became legendary for his good deeds — it is said that he gave away all his inherited wealth and wandered the country helping the poor and the sick. His death-day on the 6th of December became a feast day, where people would give each other gifts to follow his example of compassion.
Christmas Traditions Change and Grow
When European immigrants began arriving in America, they took their various Saint Nicks (the Dutch with Sinterklaas, the Germans with Heilige Nikolaus, the Swedish with Jultomte) along, and he slowly morphed into the jelly-bellied guy we know and love today. Industrialization meant that products could be produced on a large scale, and the booming new American economy created both the means and the demand for Christmas gifts.
Nowadays, most people are more concerned with getting the newest iPhone than they are about helping those in need. But it doesn’t have to be this way… Most of us, if we just stop and look around, can see what is truly important — each other! But, there is a way to help you open your heart wide this season — or at least crack a window for the real Grinches.
‘Ho-ho-how?’ You ask…
How about instead of a Christmas tree, we get some Christmas mushrooms?
Deck The Halls With Boughs of… Mushrooms?
Yes, psychedelics and St. Nick may not be the obvious combo, but hear us out:
Research has found that a psilocybin trip, from either magic mushrooms or truffles, can increase feelings of love, compassion, and altruistic acts. Christmas spirit all year round?! It sounds too good to be true!
Well, thank Rudolph and his psychedelic nose it ain’t! In 2006 those busy elves at John Hopkins University were researching the effects of having ‘mystical-type’ experiences under the influence of psilocybin. Of the many fascinating results they found, one was that participants self-reported positive changes in their attitudes and behaviour — they were kinder, more open. Most importantly, the volunteers’ friends and family, when interviewed, agreed on the positive changes noticeable in their loved one. And if your friends and family don’t know you best, who does?!
Of course, apart from the recent studies on just this idea, there has long been a connection between psychedelic use and kindness. Think of the 1960s Summer of Love at the height of the psychedelic era! Sometimes stereotypes are a little true.
A Stoned Ape In Your Stocking
If you subscribe to the Stoned Ape Theory, popularised by Terence McKenna, you’ll know that it attributes the development of social empathy, ritual, and even spiritual communion to early human’s ingestion of psychedelic mushrooms. If you follow this theory down, it could be that St. Nicholas himself only was so kind because thousands of years previously a monkey ate a shroom, and it made him feel warm fuzzies for his fellow monkey. And charity was born! (or something.)
Maybe it’s not the Christmas story we know… but perhaps it’s the Christmas story we need.
Psychedelics Are The Way To Benefit Others
And, going full circle, you know you’re onto a winner once it becomes financially lucrative. In 2019, Atman Retreat was opened in Jamaica, where one could experience safe, legal psilocybin experiences with beautiful beach views. Aaron Necksmith-Beck, the founder of the retreat, is busy in the ‘effective altruism’ (EA) community. They define themselves as “…a philosophy and social movement that advocates the use of evidence and reasoning to determine the most effective ways to benefit others.”
At the moment the EA crew are looking at psychedelics as just that — one of the ‘most effective ways to benefit others.’ St. Nicholas would have loved the EA (probably!)
“We believe increasing access to high quality psychedelic experiences can be impactful for improving mental health, boosting personal efficacy, perhaps making people more altruistic, and promoting human flourishing in the long run.”
This Christmas Why Not Give the Gift of Love?
Of course, we all have the capacity for love and compassion in our hearts. And not just for our friends — for strangers too! But, in this fast-paced, hyper-connected, overwhelming world sometimes we forget we are capable. It’s easier to just cocoon ourselves, and let it go by. Often it’s only come the holiday season when we start to think of others. A recent survey found that 40% of all charitable giving in the U.S happens between Thanksgiving and New Year! But that doesn’t mean people aren’t in need of compassion all year round — from charity donations, to just being kinder to your parents.
This Christmas why not give the gift of love? And, for that matter, why not all year round too? Our products are available 365 days a year!
Or give your friends and family a real treat this season by taking a psilocybin trip a week or so before you see them, and then being a delight to be around all holiday? 😜
As Benjamin franklin said;
“A good conscience is a continual Christmas.”
And as Santa Claus says;
‘Merry Tripmas to all, and to all a good trip!’*
*citation needed 😉