Monday, 26 October 2015

Santacide

Have you ever seen The Nightmare Before Christmas? I absolutely hate that movie. I know, it's a cult classic, it's beloved by millions and has it's own franchise and my own girlfriend adores it . . . but I hate it, passionately.
I admit that my disgust at the film comes from a sense of severe disappointment moreso than the degree of the badness. I am self-aware enough to admit that while the movie is bad, it is not irredeemably terrible. The reason I hate it is because, firstly, it was the first blu-ray I ever bought and I hated that experience immensely; but also, the cult status of the film lead me to believe that the film was astoundingly good. However, it was not. The music is bland and the lyrics are lame, and the story is insubstantial, a thin plot being thickened out by incessant singing.
The characters look interesting, and that makes for good merchandising, but the movie is unwatchable to me. It does have one good idea though, an interesting one, of adding horror elements to the otherwise cheery and bubbly season of Christmas.
That's what drew me to the movie in the first place, it's such a great juxtaposition. Comfort, warmth, joy and gifts with insecurity, cold, sadness and loss. But The Nightmare Before Christmas is not the only story to have made this thematic choice, of adding horror to Yuletide. So, I figured I could investigate this phenomenon of Evil Santas.
The Word of the Day is: ‘HOLIDAY’

Holiday /holǝday/ n. 1. A day on which ordinary business is stopped, often in memory of some event, person, religious feast, etcetera. 2. (often pl.) A break from work often involving a trip away from home; vacation. ♦adj. 3. Relating to or suited to a holiday: A holiday frame of mind. ♦v.i. 4. To take a holiday: She will holiday on the Gold Coast.

What is unusual, to me, is that one of the first horror slasher movies ever made was Black Christmas, a horror movie with a killer dressed up as Santa Claus. Most confusing of all is that this wasn’t a Christmas movie . . . but it also wasn’t a Halloween movie. The film was first released in 1974 and it was in cinemas in October for Canadian audiences, but it was first shown to Americans in December. So, It wasn’t either of these holidays, but it was a little bit of both.
There were more Santa Slashers, in the form of Christmas Evil and Silent Night, Deadly Night, the latter of which garnered controversy by concerned parents and teachers who believed that lovable Santa should not be depicted as a serial killer; they forced the filmmakers to pull an ad campaign depicting Santa wielding an axe, and it was also widely protested and condemned.
In spite of, or perhaps because of, this controversy, Silent Night became a franchise with four sequels and a reboot.

But also, I know of a few even in my own experiences. Round the Twist, a show based on the books by Paul Jennings, featured an episode called “Santa Claws” based around a short story of the same name, wherein ‘Santa’ is actually a kind of genie creature with chimney-climbing claws which provides wishes with unfortunate consequences.
Then there’s my favourite, The Hogfather, a novel by Terry Pratchett where someone tries to assassinate the Discworld version of Father Christmas, and so Death takes his place, they also made a great miniseries based on it
Also there was an episode of the Tales from the Crypt called “And All Through the House” featuring an escaped mental patient wearing a Santa suit and wielding an axe (I think people like giving Santa an axe because the colour red makes people think of firemen).
And do I even need to mention the Robot Santa Claus from Futurama? It seems like people are really attracted to the idea of an evil Santa . . . but why?
Well, I could point out the Santa/Satan connection, with that anagram often the subject of comedy, but there are more relevant connections. In many traditions, Santa Claus is accompanied by a companion known as the Krampus. The Krampus was a devil-like creature with horns and cloven hooves that carried a sack. Santa makes his list, checks it twice, if you’re nice he gives you gifts; but, if you’re naughty, you would be visited by the Krampus, who would either give you coal, rocks or switches, or if you were truly bad, he would kidnap you and take you home to eat you for Christmas dinner. Then there's the Knut Goat, a creature in some parts of Europe said to go around and buck naughty kids. Then there's Black Pete, a racist caricature that would kidnap naughty kids, and force them to become future versions of Black Pete.

So, why are there all these horror elements sneaking into Christmas? Well, I’m not certain, but if you ask me, it’s evidence of the Pagan origins of Christmas. Despite what Kirk Cameron would like you to believe, Christmas has little, to nothing, to do with Christianity. It was an entirely Pagan celebration of the winter harvest. In fact, when you look at the History of both Christmas and Halloween,they are in fact very similar festivals.
Halloween takes its origins from Samhain, a Gaelic winter festival to celebrate a bountiful harvest. Meanwhile, Christmas takes its origins from Saturnalia, a Roman winter festival, which celebrated Saturn, a god of agriculture, and gift-giving to enjoy the plentiful yeild. And both festivals were held before the Winter Solstice, when farming would be more difficult, they were celebrated with animal sacrifices and prayed to gods of the agriculture.

So, in several ways, I guess you could say that Christmas and Halloween are basically the same holiday. In a matter of speaking at least . . . so, is it really such a stretch to suggest that Old Nick and St. Nick are the same person? If you do a little research, you’ll start to unravel this mystery yourself.

I’m the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, I hope you’re preparing for a Merry Halloween.

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