Simply Having an Ominous Christmastime

Most often when we think of Christmas we think of the things like the warmth of a fireplace, the coziness of Christmas lights, presents wrapped nicely sitting under the tree, the smell of fresh Christmas cookies just out of the oven, and freshly brewed coffee. Meanwhile, we’re probably not thinking about a man with a switch, kids being chopped up, or a giant ogre; but these are actual Christmas traditions around the world and we find them fascinating. Let’s dig in and get the story! 

Our first tradition takes us to Iceland and this tradition is centered around Gryla, a giant ogre, and Yule Cat. Don’t be fooled, while this may sound like the makings of a heartwarming family film, it’s anything but. According to Icelandic folklore, Yule Cat once belonged to the half-ogre/half-troll known as Gryla. Gryla spends their time in a dark cave, only coming out during Christmas to kidnap small children to make a big pot of stew with. Now, one of Gryla’s closest companions is Yule Cat who is far different than any four-legged member of your family that you force into a matching Christmas sweater for the family picture. Yule Cat goes about peering into children’s bedroom windows to make sure they not only received clothing for being good all year but that their new clothing is laid out. If there is no new clothing laid out, children may lay out old clothing and hope that they’ve somehow met Yule Cat’s standards for being good so they aren’t eaten. 

(image via: the grapevine)

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Next, we’re visiting Germany, or season 9 of The Office, to learn of Belsnickel. Belsnickel is a cranky old many draped in furs who visits the homes of children before Christmas and he brings with him a bag of treats in one hand and a switch in the other. If the children were good, they would receive a treat, and if not, well a smack on the hand for them. 

(image via: from tiny pennies)

Père Fouettard is uhm, celebrated? Honored? Used to treat bad behavior? All of the above, we suppose, in France, Belgium, and Switzerland. Pere was a butcher, and while the story is already terrifying, it does get worse, apparently, one day he and his wife kidnapped, robbed, and killed wealthy children, then carved their bodies, and hid them in salting barrels. As if this wasn’t enough, St. Nicholas was apparently the first to find the crime scene and brought the children back to life, as one does. As punishment, however, Pere now has to follow St. Nick around and deal with the problem children. 

(image via: from tiny pennies)

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