The Demons of Christmas Past
All over the world people love Christmas. The presents, the food, the lights, the trees, the dashing through the snow to get to loved ones’ homes. However there is a deeper, darker, creepier side of Christmas you may not know. As badly as Christians want to lay claim to founding Christmas, it’s just not the truth. I am Roman Catholic and I would like to believe it too. It is of no matter though because Christmas began with Roman paganism.
In the third century Christians did not know or care when Jesus’s birthday was. Roman pagans began the festival of Saturnalia, which is a week long holiday running from December 17th until December 25. All courts were closed and lawlessness was permitted and encouraged. I liken it to a purge of sorts. On the first day of the festival a male or female was chosen as an enemy of the Roman people to symbolize the ‘Lord of Misrule’. Each Roman community would select a Lord of Misrule and ply him or her with sexual pleasures and food all week long. On December 25th the Lord of Misrule would be horrifically murdered as a sacrifice to obliterate the forces of darkness. During the whole week everyone remained drunk and would run from house to house naked, raping, pillaging, and eating human shaped biscuits. Sound familiar?
Because it is Christmas we cannot forget Santa, Mrs. Claus, his reindeer, and the elves that work so hard to make toys for good little boys and girls. But what happens to the little boys and girls who just cannot behave? Centuries ago in German lore it was said that Saint Nicholas would give to treats to the good children. However the bad children get beat and are stolen to the underworld by Krampus.
Krampus is derived from the German word Krampen which means claw. He is half demon half goat and armed with chains and bells, which he swathes all about. Can you hear the Christmas bells ringing? Krampus also carries a bundle of birch sticks with which he whips naughty children into being nice. Krampus arrives on Christmas Eve or Krampus night. Have you been naughty or nice? Were there presents under the tree or a rod?
Within medieval Icelandic farm folklore lies the yule cat or Jolaktturinn. The Yule Cat is a mythical, terrifying beast with razor sharp claws and teeth. It is said that if one works hard all season then he or she will receive new clothes as gifts for Christmas. Those who were lazy and did naught were ripped to shreds in their rags by the Yule Cat on Christmas.
The Yule Cat lives with Gryla the ogress. Gryla is horrific to look at and has sharp, pointy teeth. She has three ugly husbands and seventy-two children who cause murder and mayhem all throughout the Christmas season. Around Christmas time she lurks in the shadows waiting for naughty children who disobey their parents. Gryla jumps out, grabs them, kills, cooks, and then eats the bad little boys and girls of the world.
In the Netherlands we find Black Peter. Black Peter is a devil who was defeated by Saint Nicholas and forced to help punish naughty kids. He is a soot-covered, Moorish slave. Santa now makes him sweep chimneys. When children misbehave at Christmas time Black Peter bags each bad little girl and boy and brings them to his lair in Spain. Make sure your chimney is clean for Santa you wouldn’t want Black Peter sticking his sweep in there.
The Kallikantzaros are goblins of ancient Greek lore. Half human half beast with glowing red eyes. The Kallikantzaros live underground until Christmas day. They hang around until January 6th spreading chaos and destruction instead of good cheer. If you do not want a swarm of Kallikantzaros tearing up your home this Christmas, simply put a sprig of basil, a wooden cross, and a bowl of water outside your door Christmas eve. Any man born on Christmas day is said to transform into Kallikantzaros on Christmas. Uh honey why are your eyes glowing red?
The Christmas witch Frau Perchta dwells in Austria and Germany. She likes to hand out rewards and punishments during the twelve days of Christmas. If you are a good little boy or girl you will get a present. However if you just cannot find it in yourself to be good, Frau Perchta will rip your organs out and replace them with garbage. Stuffed turkey anyone?
The scariest Christmas demons I have saved for last and both hail from France.
Pere Fouettard or Father Whipper was a French butcher. He was happily married, but could not quell his unhealthy appetite for the flesh of children. So on Christmas day he decided he wanted a feast. Father Whipper and his minion wife lured three little nice boys from the street into their butcher shop. Once inside the butcher killed, chopped up, and salted the nice little boys. Somehow Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick heard of the boys peril, rushed in on his reindeer, rescued, and resurrected the boys. Santa then took the cannibal butcher into his custody. Whose job it is now to whip bad children on Christmas Day. Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.
Lastly comes the creepy tale of Hans Trapp, a real human. Trapp was said to have been an evil, greedy man who worshiped Satan. Eventually he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church and exiled into the forest. Not to be brushed off so easily, Hans began murdering children who had wandered into the forest. He would dress up like a scarecrow with straw sticking out of his clothing and all. Standing deadly still he would pounce on the unwitting children and kill them brutally. On Christmas day he decided he would have a fancy meal consisting of little boy meat, but Santa, divine intervention, or just pure fate intervened. Hans Trapp was struck by lightning and killed, dead. Rumor has it Hans Trapp visits young children on Christmas who are bad and scares them into being good.
So this Christmas season do be a good dear and hang your stockings with good cheer. Keep your loved ones near. Remember The Demons of Christmas Past are just waiting and watching for you to be naughty. So you better be nice!
J.L. Estes’s Bio
J.L. Estes is a self-published author of two poetry books; Book of Sorrows and The Broken Ones, both as a Kindle version or as a trade paperback and can be purchased on Amazon.com. Ms. Estes has also been recognized by the Library of Congress for her mastery of poetry and her poem “Shattered” is published in their edition the International Who’s Who in Poetry 2012. She is currently slaving over her first fiction novel Insanity, look for it soon. She is earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology, with hopes of running her own crime lab one day. She is also an honorary member of the elite National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Bravely, she has chosen to be an advocate for Victims of Violence, so they no longer have to suffer in silence. Please join her fight, check out her website; Victims of Violence
References: Mental Floss. (2015). 9 Legendary Monsters of Christmas. Retrieved from: http://mentalfloss.com/article/54184/9-legendary-monsters-christmas
The Travel Channel. (2015). It’s a Paranormal Christmas. Retrieved from: http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/holidays/articles/its-a-paranormal-christmas
Photos Courtesy of Shutter Stock.com.