Santa Claus: An Investigative Report

In that time of year when winter descends and the spirit of the Christmas season begins to fill our hearts, most children's minds turn to thoughts of Santa Claus' pending gift-laden arrival. Some will have been taught that the Santa Claus of popular culture is in some way based on an historical figure named Saint Nicholas. They may not know of his deeds; perhaps they assume that he gave gifts to children at Christmas to exemplify the spirit of giving.

That couldn't be further from the truth.

This is an account of the life and times of "Santa Claus." Debunking the myths and distortions that surround the legendary figure, this story attempts to dispel the misconceptions that have been passed from generation to generation, in print and by word of mouth. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. But he's not the jolly old elf portrayed in movies and fables...

The Beginning of a Dream

Santa Claus was born Santos Nikklos, the only son of Herkos and Athene Nikklos, near the small Greek coastal village of Preveza. That is not to say he was from humble beginnings; his father Herkos was a wealthy fishing tycoon who owned the largest fleet of boats in the region. Photos of the Nikklos estate, set in the mountains above the village, bear out the assertion that he "owned the town." It was widely rumored that Herkos had criminal dealings with the Greek underworld, but despite vast circumstantial evidence no impropriety was ever proven.

Little is known of Santos' early childhood. He roamed the expanse of the rocky and mountainous Nikklos estate, but eschewed the small, quiet coastal village below. Rather than enrolling into a formal school, he was tutored in the fundamentals of education, and rarely associated with the other children of Preveza.

When he was in his early teens, he began working for his father as a deckhand on the fishing boats that plied the Ionian sea. There, he learned to fight and drink ouzo with the other, larger men. He earned their respect with his fists, but maintained their loyalty by working as hard as any of them to haul in a day's catch. Soon he found himself accepted as one of them, and most accounts give the impression that he was trying to separate himself from the ties of family. During those teenage years he usually slept in taverns, on streets, or on the boats, but he was not above using his family's wealth and power to bribe his way into lodging with various women of the town as often as he liked.

During the riotous nights that made up his adolescence, he would occasionally mention a dream that would become his lifelong ambition: to raise and breed reindeer. Not the garden variety Old World reindeer, Rangifer Tarandus, but the rare and elusive Flying White reindeer, Rangifer Aeroblanc. Finally, becoming dissatisfied with the life of a fisherman, he began making journeys north of the Arctic Circle where the few Flying White reindeer could he found, familiarizing himself with the native elves.

The elves inhabiting the Arctic regions were peoples indigenous to the area. Archaeologists believe they originated in eastern Öelfland, arriving in the Bering Sea area about 10,000 years ago. Traditionally, the elves live in sedentary communities, relying heavily on subsistence hunting and fishing. Some villages have been continuously occupied for hundreds of years. Before Santos established his reindeer ranch, the largest settlement of elves was living in the Nunavut territory of Canada near the North Pole. With an exceptionally high birth rate, the elvish population was growing dramatically. However, the community was suffering a large net loss from migration, due to many native elves leaving the territory for better economic opportunity elsewhere.

The elves that Santos was befriending and bargaining with were from another distinct group of elvish people. Russian elves, an ofshoot that had moved from southern Siberia to the northernmost part of what later became Russia sometime before the 12th century. They were largely nomadic hunters, only a few of them settling into small communities. They had a clan-based social structure, with a shamanistic and animistic belief system which stressed respect for the land and its resources. Their main subsistence came from hunting, and using reindeer as a draft animal throughout the year enabled them to cover great distances. Large-scale reindeer herding emerged in the 18th century.

Santos' trips to the Arctic laid the groundwork, and he formalized plans with which to realize his dream. When he reached the age of 21 and inherited a large family trust, he left the small Greek village of Preveza and trekked north once again, never to return. He had bought a vast acreage in Canada's Nunavut territory, near the North Pole. Not only was the land cheap and plentiful, but moreover, both the terrain and climate were the type on which Flying White reindeer thrive.

Santos first arrived on his polar ranch as the owner of two reindeer he had acquired on his journey through Siberia; a handsome buck named Donder and a pregnant doe named Blitzen.

The Dream Begins

Flying White reindeer have always been difficult to procure, due to their rarity. In order to stock his ranch, Santos Nikklos made a series of journeys back to the elves in Siberia, often passing through the Scandinavian countries on the way. He continued to foster business contacts on these tours, and purchase more reindeer. By the time Blitzen gave birth to a fawn he named Dancer, he had arranged to bring several dozen more reindeer onto the ranch.

Within the timeframe of these trips, he encountered a buxom, long-legged Scandinavian girl named Debbie, and they began a romantic relationship. Debbie's family background is a mystery, as are the exact circumstances of their meeting. Although some researchers assert the girl was a runaway from a dysfunctional family in Sweden, it's more likely Debbie was simply the daughter of a Finnish reindeer herder who had dealings with Nikklos.

As the Nunavut reindeer herd grew, Santos had decreasing occasion to travel the world. After three years, he and Debbie were married in a summer ceremony. Santos took his new bride to live in Nunavut and help him tend the reindeer. It seems that this was the happiest time of his life.

In a journal, Santos recorded: "...she has a way with the animals that is truly remarkable. They eat from her hand. I watch them in the midnight sun, flying around overhead and playing. They frolick so joyfully. Sometimes when I sit on the hillside and smoke my pipe, watching them, I get such pleasure that I just laugh ho ho ho."

The North Pole

Over the next few years, Santos devoted all his energies to the reindeer herd and seldom left the ranch. Oddly, this persistence of vision had a negative impact upon his business acumen. The farm was not well-publicized and the market for Flying White reindeer was too soft to make up for the lack of advertising. Santos had distanced himself from civilization both literally and figuratively. This, combined with a variety of other factors, led to low sales levels that the farm would never overcome.

The reindeer were breeding proficiently, but few buyers were interested. While Flying White reindeer are lovely to look at, they are also impractical and finicky animals. Maintenence of the increasingly overstocked herd caused Santos' expenses to rise uncontrollably. His inherited funds dwindled, and he began to use credit for purchases. The stress of running the business, coupled with his isolation, caused Santos to begin experiencing mood swings, night terrors, and other minor mental lapses.

It was at this point that Santos made an unfortunate contact. The Purina Company sales representative for the Arctic Region made regular visits, and one evening, the typical procurement of Purina Reindeer Chow turned to a discussion of marketing. The salesman offered up the suggestion of a promotional giveaway, and Santos, having the business sense of a carp, bit. The salesman told Santos of some elves who had a struggling toy business, convincing him that some kind of joint venture might be beneficial to all concerned. (Not least of all the salesman himself, who was getting paid less in cash and more with credit vouchers for both his Purina Reindeer Chow and his Purina Elf Chow.)

With the Purina salesman introducing them, negotiations began shortly thereafter between Santos' Reindeer Ranch and Elftoy, Inc. Elftoy was a tiny gingerbread-style shop in the Nunavut elvish settlement, owned by a family named Parker. It was run by two siblings, Milton and Bradley. The Parker brothers hoped that by giving some of their less costly toys away, they could publicize their work, showing off the craftmanship and quality of their more upscale products. Also, they hoped that an increased consumer awareness of toys made by elves would result in a larger client base.

Santos had much the same thing in mind, expecting the free toys to bring in buyers for his reindeer, but the plan seemed to backfire. A phone bank was set up, and an advertising campaign started, offering a free, no-obligation information package that included an elf toy. Responses flooded in, and Elftoy was inundated with requests. But while the little shop struggled to keep up with demand for free toys, paying orders were not increasing significantly. As for Santos' Reindeer Ranch, the rise in publicity really did nothing to increase demand for high-ticket luxury-item reindeer.

It soon became obvious that the smartest move would be to give up the promotion, but Santos was reluctant to do so. While his wife Debbie continued to point out that it made the most economic sense to quit giving away toys since reindeer sales hadn't risen, Santos' hesitation turned into defiant refusal. The conflict between the two of them quickly escalated until Santos' somewhat short temper sent him into a violent rage. It wouldn't be the last. One of the first indicaters of his pending psychopathy was the demagoguery that caused him to claim that the children depended on him to brighten their lives. In a fit of spite, he swore to actually take the cheap toys to all the children in the world once every year, founding a grandiose scheme he called Santos' Christmas Giveaway. The rift that was forming between Mr. and Mrs. Nikklos would only become wider as time went on.

In a desperate move to protect his supply of toys, Santos spent most of his remaining inheritance to buy Elftoy's burgeoning toy shop from the Parker brothers. Due to a typographical error in the paperwork, the new business name was misspelled as "Santas Workshop", a small mistake that would be a source of annoyance to Santos for the rest of his life.

This enterprise demanded most of his time, so he was forced to place his wife Debbie in charge of the reindeer ranch. Many psychologists believe that this helped cause the marriage to disintegrate; as Santos became bitter that his dream was fading from fruition, his resentment toward his wife increased. She was the lucky one who was doing the work he enjoyed, while he had to deal with one adversity after another. He came to see Debbie's caring attitude as mercenary, and their fights became more frequent and violent.