Christmas Monsters & Demons
It might seem strange, but in some places in the world Christmas is also the time of demons and monsters that would seem more suitable to come out in Halloween than during the celebration of the birth of Baby Jesus. Many of them form some sort of ‘good cop/bad cop’ team with Santa, and are meant to punish children who have misbehaved during the year.
Used, as we are, to having the Three Kings leave sacks of coal for the naughtier ones, it might seem odd that Santa needs an aide to do the dirty work; but bear in mind that to most people he is kindness personified, and that under no circumstances would he punish an ill behaved child, no matter how badly they deserve it.
We will tell you about some of the monsters and demons that hang about during Christmas. Though you have nothing to worry about, of course, since they only go after those who have misbehaved.
Let’s begin with one who has caused much, much fright: the Austrian Krampus. His teeth are sharp, his eyes are red, he has horns coming out of his head, is covered in hair and has the legs of a goat. He roams through the streets of towns ringing a bell to announce his arrival and, sometimes, he carries a large sack or basket on his back, where he puts the children he picks up to take them back to hell. Now we understand why Austrian kids are so well behaved.
Imagine the man with the bag were Santa’s partner. Something of the kind happens in France, where children fear the arrival of ‘Père Fouettard’ (‘Papa Whip’ in French). According to the legend, this man kidnapped and ate three children, but Saint Nicholas managed to bring them back to life. He also got the evil man to repent for everything he had done but, as a punishment for his heinous crime, he forced him to go around whipping children who paid no mind of their parents’ orders. We have absolutely no idea why Santa did not make him whip himself as a punishment, instead.
Similar to ‘Papa Whip’, although less of a brute, is Germany’s ‘Servant Rupert’. As his name suggest, he is a servant of sorts of Saint Nicholas, who asks children whether they have been good. Should any of them say ‘no’, Rupert then proceeds to beat them with a bag full of ashes (which probably means that, as well as his servant, it seems as if he is also Saint Nicholas’ chimney sweeper).
Another curious figure is the Scandinavian Tomte, a small and elderly dwarf dressed as a farmer, who sports a long, white beard and has only one eye. The old tradition tells that he was an evil being who spent much of his time playing unpleasant pranks on people, bothering the cattle and terrorising any families who would not present him with gifts. Nevertheless, in due course, he has been turned into the character that brings the Christmas presents in that part of the world, and even his attire has been transformed, now adopting a similar dress code to Santa’s. What ever happened to turn the horrific and evil old man into a good person? We have no clue.
But, ‘Black Pete’, Saint Nicholas’ companion in the Netherlands, also turned good. The story goes that he was a little devil (something akin to a gremlin), domesticated by the saint to become his servant and help him deliver his gifts through the chimney (as a matter of fact, it is said he is black precisely because he is always covered in soot and ashes). These days, Peter is at the core of plenty of controversy, since many people consider it a racist symbol.
Nevertheless, nobody has ever been able to domesticate Iceland’s Jólaköttur (The Yule Cat). He is a gigantic feline monster with fiery eyes who once was the pet of a family of trolls. Like all cats, he is always cold, so he spends every Christmas Eve looking for cosy homes where to warm up and, while he is at it, catch his prey: children who don’t do their homework. The funny thing is that, in order to keep him away, you have to wear new clothes, since the Cat of Yule thinks that a new jumper, new trousers or a new pair of shoes must be the reward for getting good marks, so the child who wears them is not eligible for dinner.
Now you know some of the creatures that cause or have caused major nightmares during Christmas. We want to stress this, though: worry you not – just like we know you have been good, they do as well.
If you want to see this post in Spanish, check it out here.