Happy Holidays everyone!
Tis the season to be jolly...or drink enough wine until you are!
Today we're talking about the spooky characters of Christmas. We're going to ignore Santa (although...one can argue that he is kinda spooky too), and focus on some of the lesser known not-so-nice Christmas characters.
The following list is in no particular order:
Okay, so I added this one first to get it out of the way. We all know about Krampus. Although the origins of Krampus are unknown - we see him in movies and we even have festivals devoted to him. He serves as the "anti-santa", punishing kids for bad behavior while Santa gives gifts for good behavior.
2. The Yule Lads
Before I can go into who the Yule Lads are, I have to briefly mention Gryla and Leppaludi. Gryla is a beggar woman who goes around asking people for either their disobedient children, or food. She lives in a cave with her husband Leppaludi and their sons...the Yule Lad, who were extremely malnourished and thus went out to peoples homes to cause food related mischief. There is a lot of discussion over how many sons she has, but it seems that most folklorists can agree on 13 of them. They arrive in your home in succession and can stay as long as a week and a half. I'm going to be using their English translated names rather than their Icelandic ones.
December 12, Sheep Cote Clod: He harasses sheep.
December 13, Gully Gawk: Goes into your cowshed and steals milk
December 14, Stubby: Steals your dirty dishes to eat the leftovers
December 15, Spoon-Licker: Licks your dirty spoons
December 16, Pot-Scraper: Same as the previous two, but specifically with pots.
December 17, Bowl-Licker: See above but with bowls
December 18, Door-Slammer: Slams doors at night and wakes you
December 19, Skyr-Gobbler: He has an affinity for Skyr (similar to yogurt)
December 20, Sausage-Swiper: Steals sausage that is being smoked
December 21, Window-Peeper: A snoop who looks into your windows for things to steal
December 22, Doorway-Sniffer: Has an abnormally large nose and an acute sense of smell used to sniff out bread. (no clue what doorways have to do with anything).
December 23, Meat-Hook: Uses a hook to steal meat.
December 24, Candle-Stealer: Follows children and steals their candles, which used to be made of tallow and thus edible.
These lads aren't *evil* exactly, but rather little mischievous beings in search of food.
3. The Yule Cat
The Yule Cat is the pet of Gryla and the Yule Lads. It is huge and viscious and is said to go out into the cold countryside and eat people who have not received new warm clothes before Christmas Eve.
4. Frau Perchta
Christmas stories in Germany and Austria sometimes feature a witch named Frau Perchta who both rewards and punishes children during the 12 days of Christmas (December 25 to January 6). Her punishments are gruesome. For instance, she will rip out the intestines of sinful children and replace them with garbage. Again, the true origins of Frau Perchta aren't concrete, some think the story descended from Alpine folklore, others say there is a connection between Frau Perchta and the Italian witch La Befana - nobody really knows for sure.
Belsnickel is a male character from southwestern German lore. He comes to children before Christmas, wearing tattered old clothing. He carries a switch to frighten children and candy to reward them for good behavior. In more modern tellings, he only uses the switch to whack on things to scare children (rather than whacking the children with it) as a warning that they still have time to be good before Christmas.
6. Hans Trapp
Hans Trapp is another 'anti-santa' who hands out punishment to bad children in France. The legend says that Trapp was a rich, greedy, evil man who worshipped Satan and was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. He was exiled into the forest where he preyed on children, disguised as a scarecrow. He was about to eat one boy he captured when he was struck by lightning and killed, a punishment from God. Still, he visits children before Christmas, dressed as a scarecrow, to scare them into good behavior.
7. Pere Fouettard
Another legend from France! His name translates to "Father Whipper". The legend begins with an evil butcher who craved children to eat. He and his wife lured three boys into his butcher shop where he killed, chopped, and salted them. St. Nicholas came to the rescue, resurrected the boys, and took custody of the butcher. The captive butcher became Pere Fouettard, St. Nicholas' servant whose job it is to punish bad children n St. Nicholas day.
8. Knecht Ruprecht
Knecht Ruprecht, or Rupert the Servant, is another German folklore character. He appears in a long robe, and carries a stick and a bag of ashes. His job is to ask children if they pray. If they do, they get rewarded with gingerbread, chocolate, fruit, and nuts. If they say no...they get whacked with the stick of the sack of ashes.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. Similar characters exist in folklore from all around Europe and certain parts of Asia. However, I hope you learned something new and most of all I hope you have a happy holiday season!
I'll see you all next year!
Until next time,
B Strong &;