12/20/2013

The Reason for the Season

People often talk about the “reason for the season” at this time of year. It's so easy to lose sight of what it's all about, what with all of the shopping, and the fuss, and the arguments leading to restraining orders, breakups, and [totally unwarranted] manslaughter charges. So I thought a small history lesson would provide some important context.

Did you know that Santa Claus was based on a real person? Did you also know that this person was named “Jacob Torvoldtsen”? The change to Santa Claus makes more sense when pronouncing Jacob’s name in the original Finnish language; that language is actually just a simple code where letters represent completely different letters in other languages. This approach to their language also explains why people with Finnish accents often sound like Stephen Hawking’s voice, because their brain is too busy processing the code algorithm to spend much time on subtle human nuances of pronunciation.

Mr. Torvoldtsen (hereafter referred to as Jacob, because I have the darnedest time spelling his last name) was famous in his community as someone who gave stuff away. Specifically, he was the local drug pusher, standing out on the corner of Blakemont and Fünfnoggle at all hours, selling temporary happiness to junkies of all ages. He was well known for giving the first one away for free, knowing that his highly addictive products would have customers come back clamoring for more at any price. He sold mainly two products, which he called “Merry” and “Happy,” in a desperate attempt to use marketing spin to cover the fact that they were both basically nothing but fermented reindeer dung. Even in the dead of winter, Jacob would be seen standing there, in drifts of snow 15 feet deep. Actually, only the snow was seen, but passers-by could hear him deep inside the snow peddling his wares, with a muffled “Have a merry! And a happy!”

The drug business wasn’t easy in those days, especially since he depended heavily on foot traffic in an area where it was too cold for people to leave their houses ten months out of the year. So, keen businessman that he was, Jacob entered the flesh trade, becoming a pimp for the local street walkers, whom he referred to as his “pack of elves.” Soon it was common for the community to hear his hawking cries at all hours of the night, crying “Ho! Ho! Ho!” as he tried vainly to interest sailors, businessmen, and young school boys in women so deeply embedded in parkas that potential clients had no idea what they looked like or whether they were actually women. Jacob tried, of course, to have his employees dress in slightly less clothing, but this ended up costing him as those women usually died of frostbite or ended up in the hospital.

It was really only when he took his tawdry business on the road that things picked up for Jacob. One night, more to elude the local constabulary than for any other reason, he sleigh-jacked a young lumberjack on his way back from the forest, tossing the man into a local snow drift and racing off with his vehicle and the pack of reindeer pulling it.

From that point on, Jacob’s fortunes were looking up. He was able to dash quickly into new towns, push his drugs and elves onto unsuspecting people, and race out of town before the police caught up to him. His reputation grew and it wasn’t long before townspeople, knowing that he was on the move, would exclaim, “You’d better watch out! Santa Claus is coming to town!” Unfortunate children who were insufficiently hidden in nearby snow drifts would catch his attention, and he’d ask, “And what would you like for Christmas?,” often throwing them some drug-laced, highly addictive candy canes (which were actually meant to be straight sticks of candy, but which melted into a cane shape, due to the ferocity of the drugs).

Over the years, his wild rides ceased and his adventures faded into legend, attracting, as most legends do, an air of nostalgia and level of falsehood usually reserved for politicians. What were once warnings to the townspeople became friendly greetings, and the man who once was regarded as the “Scourge of Jyväskylä” became the basis for the story of the jolliest man to ever invite small children onto his lap.

So if you happen to see any Santas about this weekend, greet them in the traditional way: say “Hello, Mr. Torvoldtsen!” and then call the cops on them.
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