I wasn’t really planning on doing another article until after New Years. I’m taking the post-Christmas week off, spending Monday going over short videos and specials, and depending on when I get Captain Yuletide done for the year post that. (One of these days I WILL make it post on Christmas day again without killing myself and making subpar art for my current skill level!) However, then MatPat over at the Theorist channels had to drop this and it got me questioning, partly thanks to doing Captain Yuletide.
In this episode of Food Theory MatPat tries to make the claim that the milk and cookies (or whatever else is left for Santa in various other countries, one of the things that’s interesting about this theory) may actually be rather unhealthy for jolly old St. Nick. However, while I’m not even close to the biggest expert on Santa Claus, there’s a hole in his theory.
As some people in the comments pointed out not every version of Santa’s giving follows the sleigh ride popularized by A Visit From St. Nicholas, aka Twas The Night Before Christmas. One poster commented on the Netherlands actually having two characters formed from the Santa Claus we know, Sinterklaas and The Christmas Man, the latter possibly being the more traditional St. Nicholas and the former roughly translating into “St. Nicholas”. As Beep Boop writes:
While dutch people do celebrate Christmas, there aren’t really many that believe he’s real. Instead, there are many Sinterklaas traditions and kids tend to agree that he is real. Instead of a sleigh with raindeer as transport, he has a singular horse that he rides around the country. He does also have a large ship that he uses to get here. Traditionally, you’d put your shoe near the chimney, sing carols and leave a carrot in your shoe as a treat for the horse. You do this every evening from the day he arrives in the country (most often it’s the Saturday around 15th of November) till the day he leaves the country (5-6th of December). And every morning you’d wake up to a little treat in your shoe like a small bag of candy of a small toy. And then at 5th of December, in some mysterious way there would be a delivery of large bags filled with presents. Some households have the bags mysteriously appear in the attic, some have them appear in front of the door din dong ditch style, some have a close relative call to say that they somehow got a bunch of gifts delivered to their place and some just outright have Sinterklaas himself show up (sometimes with his jolly friends) to deliver the gifts and pay a short visit before he has to go to the next house.
Sinterklaas also isn’t magical (though I have to presume is at least also immortal) but is good with organizing and also has helpers who assume his identity to not break the illusion for kids. At least one of them is real, guess which one. Another poster questioned the idea that Swedish kids leave coffee out for Santa since he’s from Sweden and can find no evidence of anyone, including his family, in Sweden doing that.
In most of Sweden, Santa (someone dressed as santa) comes during the day to personally deliver the presents, before leaving after being there for about half an hour. Some people also like to leave porridge for Santa during the night, though that isn’t as common as it used to be anymore. However, I live in Stockholm, so I can’t speak for all of Sweden.
And this is the big thing MatPat forgot. There are probably even more examples but with over 7,000 comments as of this writing I don’t have time to explore them all, but I already see the flaws. As I started trying to use various Christmas traditions and carols as part of the adventures of the Captains Yuletide and Bryce The Green-Nosed Reindeer (this year’s doesn’t really do that) I’ve looked up a number of Christmas traditions around the world for story fodder. There are countries that don’t use any variation of Santa at all, while others give Santa helpers. Even in US Christmas specials Santa is sometimes helped by an elf or some other character who is important to that special. I even had Leon helping Santa in Jake & Leon, though that was an embellishment by Jake for Beth’s amusement.
Look, drawing fat people is harder than you think when you mostly draw thin characters, okay? Pretend it’s the British version, Father Christmas, in the wrong outfit.
My point is those helpers may also share, depending on their age, in the food and various beverages, and that’s in countries where Santa Claus in some form even shows up. One commenter even suggested that he actually uses other dimensionally transcendental carrying items like his famous sack then brings it home to his workers and Mrs. Claus to enjoy (especially the beer I’d wager), though I’m not convinced he doesn’t still have to stop along the way to reload his gifts, with elves waiting at various rest stops who may also get some of that food and drink. I also have a theory that involves passing in the spaces between seconds, which would lengthen his time further to reduce the stress, though even then all those cookies and pies are not a healthy plan for an exclusive diet even if this took more than one day thanks to time-dilation magic shenanigans. NORAD spots him when he re-enters normal space to check the time and get his bearings. That’s why on occasion a kid might see him and clearly not one of his/her parents or legal guardian dressing up while hearing sleigh bells and hoof beats on the roof somehow, but most kids never see or hear him at all.
All of this were not things MatPat and his team took into consideration in this theory. Not every country, which he even noted a couple of times, uses the traditional Santa and may have other figures handing out gifts if at all. The tradition in a particular area on Christmas may just have the family and friends exchanging gifts. Japan has some strange ideas about Santa because Christmas there is only a religious event to a handful of Christians. Does that mean all the treats alone are good for Santa? Probably not, and there are some individual households who will leave healthier items out, as well as snacks for the reindeer, to enforce that lesson on their kids. I’m certainly not against that and depending on Santa’s preferences and dietary needs he probably isn’t, either.
There are holes in MatPat’s theory, but I do find it fascinating the work he came up with going over Santa’s ride around the world, incomplete as it apparently is. I still learned some interesting things about traditions around the world, even if got some of that wrong like the coffee in Stockholm and possibly elsewhere in Sweden. Theories on that were given but technically ALL of this is guess work. That’s kind of the fun of fictional theorizing, and when it comes to Santa Claus that’s frankly part of the fun and part of the reason we keep the legend of Santa Claus going, uptight and joyless psychological “experts” aside.