Saturday, December 22, 2012

A visit from the creatures of Christmas

If you're reading this blog, there's a good chance you are familiar with Krampus. If you're not, here's a quick rundown on him. In some Alpine countries, the devilish creature Krampus will accompany St. Nicholas around town checking to see which children are good or bad. If you are bad, Krampus will smack you with the sticks he carries around and maybe even carry you off in the sack on his back. If you've been really naughty, you might even end up as Krampus food.

Krampus is very hot nowadays. He's almost a fad. As fascinatingly evil as Krampus is, I was excited recently to learn about another creepy Christmas figure: Belsnickel.

A few weeks ago, I was watching The Office and caught what was the funniest episode I'd seen in a while. In this episode, Dwight throws his version of a Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas, complete with Belsnickel. Unfortunately, the episode has been taken offline, but you can still watch Dwight's big entrance:

The Belsnickel episode actually endeared the Dwight character a bit to me. That's really saying something, since I usually find him wickedly obnoxious. I liked how enthusiastic he was, even if hardly anyone in the office was digging his rendition of Belsnickel.

Yes, Belsnickel is an actual thing. He's similar to Krampus, in that he's a scary figure beating bad kids with sticks. He's different in that he's a dirty, shabbily dressed man, and not a demonic beast. Here's one of the videos I found of the Belsnickel tradition.

Belsnickel in the schoolhouse:

This schoolhouse Belsnickel has sort of a piratey flair in my opinion...

Back to Krampus, I found a very cool video of what I can only describe as a Krampus party in the street. In between visiting houses, these Krampuses are dancing and jingling along. As Krampus videos go, this is more fun and less traumatizing than a lot of what I've watched:

One more Christmas tradition I'd like to share with you is that of the Newfoundland Mummers. Imagine living in the middle of the country, totally snowed in, when a knock comes at the door. In come the Mummers, with their faces hidden, singing, dancing, and partying around the table! Then you try to guess which of your neighbors are in these costumes. If a Mummer's identity is discovered, they must reveal their face.

I didn't know about Mummers before accidentally finding this video. I had been looking up Belsnickel videos after watching that episode of The Office, and these Mummers came up as a related video.

It's funny that as a Loreena McKennitt fan, who has listened to her song Mummer's Dance many times, I never thought about what a Mummer was! I'm going to leave you with that song and wish you all a very Merry Christmas! I hope you all have a wonderful 2013, and I look forward to reading your upcoming posts this year.

Loreena McKennitt ~ Mummer's Dance:


  1. I had thought for sure Belsnickel was a Dwight creation/take off on Krampus and was shocked to find out it was a real thing.

    I always find it interesting when different cultures have similar myths.

  2. Dex ~ Oh, I know! That's exactly what I thought too. I thought maybe Krampus was somehow copyrighted or couldn't be mentioned, and they had to think up something similar. I was surprised to see that this wasn't made up! I might have to watch that episode again. Dwight was a real natural as Belsnickel!

  3. I have to say I much prefer Belsnickel to Krampus. Krampus scares the crap out of me, even at my age! All the old imagery of him with that long tongue gives me the heebie-jeebies. Thank goodness he was never a Canadian custom, because he'd give a poor child nightmares, wouldn't he?

    Have a lovely holiday season, Justine!

  4. I kept seeing the name Krampus around and didn't know what it was, it reminded me of "evil Grandpa" which I guess is close! Krampus is sort of like the Santa Police! Looks like network TV is getting better than it was in the nineties when I kinda dropped out of TV. Well, I'm glad I know now about Krampus, thanks! The more monsters the better!

  5. Insomniac's Attic ~ Yeah, Krampus is a scary one. I guess that's one way to keep kids in line, while leaving them traumatized for life...

    If you think the old illustrations are creepy, take a look at the modern Krampus! Or maybe don't, since you're scared already. :) With modern mask making techniques, Krampus has come a long way! I agree, there's something about a tongue dripping out of a creature's mouth that is just nasty. (Gene Simmons comes to mind)

    Thanks for the wishes ~ You have a lovely holiday season too! :)

    Matt ~ Krampus as an evil Grandpa! I love it! I can see the transition from Grandpa to Grampus to Krampus. That's a funny idea, although I doubt Krampus was ever anyone's Grandfather. ;) Now I'm imagining little red demon grandchildren running around!

    Yes, the "Santa Police" is a good way of putting it.

    There are some pretty good shows on TV lately! I went through a stage of getting bored with The Office, but there are some pretty entertaining plot lines going on now! I've been enjoying a lot of what's on NBC on Thursday nights.

    Glad to have informed you about Krampus! :)

  6. Always loved Krampus! And have been seeing more of Belsnickel lately.
    The Mummers are quite wide spread. There is a Mummers group in New Orleans that performs every year at Mardi Gras. And of course, there are the Mummers that perform in the various parades broadcast on TV. Interesting tidbit about the Newfoundland Mummers....
    Happy Holidays to you and yours!

  7. Jeanne ~ Really? The first I heard of Belsnickel was on that episode of The Office. Where else have you seen him? It was fun to learn about a new creepy Christmas character, interesting as Krampus is.

    I was fascinated to read about the many different types of Mummers. After watching the Mummers video I posted, I googled "Mummers". I found not only these masked visitors but more colorful characters and parades. I bet the colorful parades I saw were from the Mardi Gras events.

    Happy Holidays to you too! :)

  8. It's so funny because I just happened to post that first picture of Saint Nicholas and Krampus on Facebook yesterday. I had only just seen it for the first time on Pinterest. I have seen a lot of the Krampus pictures that are floating around online, but this was a new one to me. Also, it's more benign than the majority of Krampus images. I posted another picture of Krampus on Facebook during Creepmas, but even though I stayed away from the the more violent imagery, I still had some woman leave a rant that all the other commenters and I were sick. Like we had invented Krampus or something. *sigh*

    I have only learnt about Krampus in recent times. When we first moved to London, Danny and I travelled in Italy and France during the lead-up to Christmas, and the big thing there seemed to be the tradition of children getting coal, rather than gifts, if they were naughty. Black candy coal was being sold everywhere because it's given to children with their gifts, as a kind of a joke. Also, living in London, we heard more about the Dutch alternative to Krampus, Zwarte Piet/Black Pete, who has become pretty controversial himself now. I had never heard of "Belsnickel" but I thought it was interesting that the Pennsylvania Dutch celebrate a character from Germanic folklore rather than the one from Dutch folklore.

    Poopy NBC wouldn't let me watch those clips in Australia, but I'll keep an eye out for the episode. 'The Office' is on my mind at the moment because James and his friends are all doing the, "That's what she said", line... incessantly! It's amazing how much of innocent speech can be turned into double-entendres by cheeky teenage boys. ;)

    Woah, this comment is way too long! Sorry! That snowy Christmas Tree is gorgeous! Have a wonderful Christmas and best wishes for 2013! :)

  9. Little Gothic Horrors ~ No way! What a coincidence that we should post the same picture. There are so many Krampus illustrations and photos out there too. You're right, this one was pretty benign. That's actually why I chose it. You'll notice that the Krampus video I posted went easy on people too. My goal was to share these traditions without scaring people too much. I feel like I'm walking a challenging line between modern jolly Christmas traditions and the old world more intense traditions. It's somewhat hard for me to combine the two. Since I haven't grown up with Krampus, it's hard to pair him with my view of Santa.

    I am so tired of these self-righteous half-wits who go online judging people, when they know absolutely nothing about the topic at hand. Congrats Emma for receiving credit for inventing Krampus. ;) Honestly, she couldn't google "Krampus" before insulting an entire group of people?

    I've seen the coal candy for sale around here too. It seems a little goofy to me, but it's probably a funny tradition in some people's families.

    The Pennsylvania Dutch are German in part. They actually speak their own dialect of German. I know it's confusing with "Dutch" in the name. If you watch some episodes of The Office, you'll see that Dwight is very German. Sometimes he'll start speaking German, as he does in this Christmas episode. That's a shame that you couldn't watch it! I couldn't find the episode anywhere except on the NBC web site. If a Dwight/Belsnickel clip turns up on YouTube, I'll let you know!

    That is so funny about James and his friends reciting that line! Often it didn't make any sense to me when it was used on the show. The Michael character just seemed to enjoy saying it nonstop. I agree, it's amazing how some of the most normal sentences can be turned into something else!

    I love that snowy Christmas tree photo. I haven't seen many photos of outdoor trees with candles like that. You have a wonderful Christmas too! I wish you the best in the coming year. :)

  10. When I was little and living in Germany with my family, we were afraid of St. Peter. He was the dark figure who left bad children coal in their stockings.

  11. Julie ~ I had no idea that you lived in Germany as a child! How long were you there, and in what area? Oh dear, another character to fear! So was he like Zwarte Piet? Also, did you see anyone dressed up as him? I hope he never left you any coal!

  12. Happy holidays, Justine! I live in Belgium and I wasn't just afraid of Zwarte Piet as a child but of Sinterklaas himself as well. The presents did make up for all that fear though :)

  13. Vanessa ~ Happy Holidays to you too! :) I didn't know that you live in Belgium. That's cool! I can see what you're saying about Sinterklaas. I've seen a few photos where the man in that role has large furrowed brows and is peering over his beard in a serious way. I know he's not supposed to be the scary one, but some of those guys are a little intimidating. Well, if the presents were making up for the fear, it sounds like you were a good girl. :)