Christmas is a time for family, love and joy, but that doesn’t mean horror doesn’t have a place in the holiday. While many families will be celebrating the annual visit from St. Nicholas on Christmas Eve, some families will be preparing for visits from more sinister characters. The following five Christmas legends all speak of nefarious creatures or people that do more harm than good during the holiday season. Which one is the scariest? You tell us!
Krampus has entered the popular culture thanks to films like Michael Dougherty’s Krampus, but that wasn’t always the case. According to legend, Krampus (whose name comes from the German word for “claw”) is a half goat-half demon with cloven hooves and a long tongue who would visit the houses of naughty children. While there he would beat them with birch branches or a whip before taking them back to his lair to live forever. While there he would beat them and torture them some more. If that doesn’t put you in the holiday spirit I don’t know what will!
While many of you may know Belsnickel because of The Office, his origins actually go way back to the early 1800s. Belsnickel is a cantankerous old man who would deliver cakes, candies and nuts to the good children and whip the bad children with a switch on Christmas Eve.
Perchta is a dual-gendered spirit who may appear either as a beautiful woman or a haggard crone. She would visit homes throughout the 12 days of Christmas and determine (like so many of the other characters in this list) whether or not the children had behaved all year. If they had, she would leave them a silver coin. If they hadn’t, she would slit their bellies open, removed their guts and stuff the hole with straw and pebbles. That’s….quite intense. I’m sure many children dreaded December for fear of receiving a visit from Perchta.
Originating in Iceland, Grýla is a giantess who is able to sense misbehaving children all year-round. She keeps a record of those children and eats them as a snack during Christmas time. As you can see in the image below, it wasn’t the cleanest meal, though she would frequently make a stew with the naughty children. Fun fact: in later years the legend had her being the mother of the Yule Lads, mischievous creatures who play pranks on the townspeople.
Knecht Ruprecht has been mentioned as a companion of Saint Nicholas, but he would go from house to house and ask the children to pray. If they did he would give them a treat (apples, nuts, etc.), but if they didn’t he would give them useless trinkets (coal, sticks, etc.). The worst would come if they refused to even try to pray: he would beat them (that seems to be a common theme, doesn’t it?) with his bag of ashes that he liked to carry around. It is even said that he would leave a switch for their parents to beat them with during the year.
What is a scary Christmas/Holiday legend you have heard before? Share your stories in the comments below!