Hey, it's still Christmas somewhere, right?
Apparently, there's a guy with supersonic (and atomic, if the rumor about the glowing nose is true) reindeer who watches you every second of every day of the year, and decides if you're being good enough to get a present at Christmas. He watches you when you're sleeping, crawls down your chimney, and leaves a block of atmosphere killing fuel if you've been a bad boy or girl. On top of that, he yells about not one, not two, but three prostitutes as he flies around the world and forces his little people into slave labor.
Sounds pretty creepy, and just plain wrong, right? In reality, Santa Claus isn't really portrayed that bad, but there are Christmas legends that are as bad as that, or worse. Here are ten from around the world, through time, including our dear ole Saint Nick.
10. St. Nicholas
Santa Claus wasn't always a fat, jolly old man that hollers “Ho, ho, ho!” as he flies through the air, tossing toys down chimneys. His story begins with a Christian bishop who served in Myra, a town now known as Demre, in Turkey. Born in the third century, many legends surround him, including his love of giving gifts and even his death. One of the most popular stories, one that spawned some of the lore behind Santa Claus, is how the saint once helped the dirt-poor father of three sisters. The father didn't have enough money to pay the dowries for his daughters and their future husbands, so he thought of selling them into servitude. On three separate times, St. Nick dropped bags of money down the chimney, so the daughters could wed. He was also a saint to sailors, in addition to children. In one legend, some sailors were caught in a storm, and prayed to St. Nicholas to save them. That he did; he appeared on the ship in front of them, ordered the seas to calm. They did, and the sailors made it home safe. Every year, to this day, on the day that legend says he died, December 6, the sailors of Bali carry his statue from the church that holds his bones to the sea, so he can bless the waters and keep the sailors safe throughout the year.
Let's go next to the legend that could be Santa's evil twin. This beast with horns and fangs doesn't reward good kids for being good, he punishes the bad ones, scaring the other naughty children into being nice. The punishment? He whips the naughty brats and drags them with him into the underworld. Not really the stuff of Christmas carols is it?
He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for your freaking soul's sake!
According to a more tame version of the folklore that began in Germany, the night before December 6 (Coincidence? Probably not!), Krampus will leave either a present or a rod in boys' and girls' shoes that they left out overnight. A present, obviously, is the preferred surprise for the children, as a rod means they've been very, very naughty through the year.
8. Hans Trapp
The legend of Hans Trapp and the young maiden is similar to Krampus and Santa, Hans being Krampus and the young maiden being Claus. They paid visits to the children of France in one version of the legend, on Christmas Eve, with Hans wanting to punish the children for being naughty, but the young maiden stepping in each time. The children promised to be better in the future, and she gave them presents. No telling what Hans and the maiden did the next year when they found out the kids lied!
The really bad version of Hans' story, like Santa's, claims to have origins with a regular man, named Hans Trapp, in the fifteenth century. He was rumored to worship satan, use magic, and only cared about making himself rich. The Catholic church found out, and banished him from Alsace, France. Long story short, he came back, the people hated him, he was left penniless, he moved to the forest, went insane, and began roaming the countryside dressed as a scarecrow. His plan? Find children and eat them. He killed his first child, a young shepherd, and was about to eat him with he was struck and killed by lightning. But, like any good, horrible legend, that didn't stop him from becoming a scary story told to children by their parents to keep them in line.
Like his counterpart in the Avengers movies, Loki was a pretty nasty little dude, according to Norse mythology. It begins with the Norse god Balder, whose mother, Frigga, the goddess of love and beauty. Frigga loved her son so much that she cut deals with all the elements, fire, earth, air and water, so that no harm would come to her son from any of them. Enter Loki. He knew that, being a plant, mistletoe belonged to none of the four groups, so he fashioned an arrow out of the tree's wood. He gave it to Hoder, Balder's blind brother, and had him shoot it. Probably telling him he was aiming at a squirrel, the pranking spirit helped him aim it at his brother's heart, shooting and killing him. Heartbroken, Frigga's tears became the berries of the mistletoe. There is more than one outcome of the story, but the happy ending involves Balder's life being restored, and Frigga making it so the killer plant is actually a symbol of love, that people will kiss when the pass under it.
6. Black Peter
Probably the most racist of all the Christmas legends, the story of Black Peter begins as a servant to St. Nicholas, or Sinterklaas, in the Netherlands. He would be the one to hand out the coal to the naughty kids, while Santa gave out the presents. It was even thought that the bag Peter carried was to be used to carry the bad kids back Spain. Oh, the torture!
5. The Yule Lads
The next three entries on this list are all connected. Also known as the Jólasveinar, the Yule Lads were Icelandic trolls who left gifts in the shoes (again, with shoes) of children who were good. They predated Santa Claus, but after his tale began to be told, their story started mixing with his. Before Santa, however, parents told children a tale of a group of trolls who went around stealing and causing trouble around Christmastime to get them to behave.
4. Yule Cat
Known by yet another impossible to pronounce name, the Jólakötturinn was a pretty nasty cat. Quite simply, it was be good and get new clothes, or be bad and be eaten by a mean Christmas Cat. One version of the kitty legend says that all Icelandic children who finished all their chores on time got a new piece of clothing. Those who were lazy didn't get anything, and the Yule Cat would prowl around on Christmas Eve, seeing what children didn't have that many new clothes, or none at all, and would eat them.
Talk about the mother of all sorts of frightening Christmas legends. Not only was this ogre lady the mother of the Yule Lads, but in her house also lived the Yule Cat. She raised hellions and was also a crazy cat lady. Her story is quite the morbid one. At first, she wasn't associated with Christmas at all; she was an Icelandic ogress who kidnapped, cooked and ate children who didn't obey their parents. Later, in the 17th century, folklore made her the mother of the Yule Lads, and the owner of the Yule Cat. And being an ogress, boy was she ugly. But she somehow managed to marry multiple times and have a whole crapload of kids, three of which became some serious troublemakers.
Another punisher who did some pretty over-the-top things as punishment, Perchta is German in origin, and visited houses during the Christmas season. She would give money to the children of households who worked hard and did good throughout the year. But according to the legend, when she came up on those who didn't behave, those who didn't have flax that was completely spun, correctly and on time, she slit their stomachs open, disemboweling them. All because they didn't spin their flax.
1. A Legend is Born
All this getting gutted and eaten, getting lumps of coal, and being beaten with switches is great and all, but all of it started with a story. Sometimes, that story was based on a real guy, or a god or goddess, but the story was used to scare the crap out of children so they'll behave. Centuries later, the stories are still being told, some original, some twisted to fit the times. So, of course, new legends are being born in our time, right in front of us.
Picture a family in 200 years, sitting around their virtual Christmas tree, exchanging presents like wormhole generators and invisibility cloaks. Hoverboards STILL haven't been invented yet. They're all laughing, with mom and dad telling the kids how good they've been this year, hence all the presents. The kids smile and say how glad they were that they didn't get a visit from a murderous, child-devouring troll in a red and white suit, who, before he would attack, would magically appear on their shelf and just stare at them. For hours, while they slept, he would pretend to be on a mission from Santa to find good boys and girls, but in reality, he was ready to pounce on the children and make them his meal if they stepped out of line. The Elf on the Shelf started out innocently enough, but centuries later, became as evil as Krampus and as tricky as Loki. Reports already suggest that kids are stressed out by the elf, knowing that they can't touch him while he watches over them, reporting their naughtiness to Santa. And parents, by Christmas Eve, are so sick of putting the stupid elf all over the house, are ready to set him on fire.