By Jethro Wegener
Christmas. Just thinking of the season brings to mind the phrase ‘joy to the world and peace on earth’, but what if we told you there was a creepy side to it? Unbeknownst to most of us, some countries have darker, more sinister legends associated with the Christmas Season, such as these below.
Everybody knows that if you’re good all year round, Santa brings you gifts. However, what if you’re naughty? That’s when Krampus comes calling. Hailing from Europe, he is the antithesis of Santa, or to put it bluntly, the demonic Father Christmas. The legend goes that boys and girls who have misbehaved during the year will get a visit from this vicious, horned demon. Once Krampus has you, he proceeds to beat and torture you before dragging you off to his lair – from which you will not return. A movie of the same name is currently still playing in cinemas, if by any means you are interested in it. In fact, there’s a parade of Krampus(es) – if the mere name itself and the movie isn’t scary enough!
- The Christmas (Or Yule) Cat
When you hear about the Christmas Cat, the first image in your head is probably that of a cute, fluffy cat that perhaps lives with Santa Claus. Sadly, that’s not the case. Icelandic legend has it that if a child is lazy, or if they do not get new clothes, this monster will find them, abduct them and probably eat them alive later on.
You’ve met the cat, now meet the owner. Similar to the Yule Cat, children that don’t obey their parents are said to be taken by Gryla, an ogress/giantress that is said to have three heads (each with three eyes), vicious claws and horns like a goat. She abducts naughty children and takes them back to her home, where she then cooks and eats them. Interestingly, in 1746, Iceland had passed a law prohibiting the stories of Gryla and her cat to be told to children, claiming that they had no purpose other than to scare youngsters.
- Pere Fouettard
His name translates to Father Whipper and he comes from France. The story goes that Fouettard was a butcher that craved the flesh of young children. One night, he lured some into his lair and slit their throats. He was going to eat them when Santa turned up and resurrected the boys before capturing the butcher. He now serves as Santa’s slave and his job is to punish naughty children by whipping them.
- Hans Trapp
Another anti-Santa, Hans Trapp is a French legend. Once a rich, greedy and evil man, Trapp worshipped Satan and was exiled from into the woods as a result. He disguised himself as a scarecrow and preyed on children that wandered into woods until he was struck by lightning and killed as a punishment from God. To this day, he visits youngsters in the days leading up to Christmas to scare them straight.
A German legend, his name is a combination of Belzen (German for wallop) and Saint Nicholas. Dressed in tattered clothes and ragged fur, he carries a stick to threaten kids with. He comes to their homes a couple weeks before Christmas to let them know that they have one last chance to be good. If they don’t shape up, he’ll give them a thorough beating come Christmas.
- Kallikantzaroi (Evil Goblins)
These dark skinned, animal-like beings from Greece are said to come from their underground lairs to torment people in the days leading up to Christmas. Some stories say they are leprechaun size while others say they are larger than most men. Whatever their size, they are said to come down the chimney and cause all kinds of chaos and destruction in people’s houses.
- Knecht Ruprecht
For children who have neither been particularly good or bad, there’s this monster from Germany. He finds children in the street and asks them if they can pray. If they can, they get some delicious gingerbread as a reward. If they can’t, he gives them some garbage and if they refuse, he beats them senseless with a bag of ash.