Monday, December 28, 2009

Finding The Dark Side Of Christmas

As I've previously said, this Yuletide season has been particularly hard for me to embrace, for some reason, but I've made a series of interesting discoveries this year, that showed me a new side of the celebrations that rival some of Halloween's scariest and spookiest.

First, Jeanne, over at The Candy Corn Chronicles explained the phrase "There'll be scary ghost stories" in the song "The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year", which made me immediately think that maybe Charles Dickens used those same beliefs as a basis for his "Christmas Carol", with his very familiar Scrooge being visited by 4 Ghosts or Spirits.  She shared that with us on the 15th, and then on the 26th, posted photos of her home, sharing a bit of Christmas Cheer with some Holiday Spirits of her own!  So VERY cool!!!!!

And in the interim, I made a few of my own discoveries.  I received another Belsnickel, which prompted me to realize that although I have a number of them in all forms and sizes, I really didn't know the true history of them.  I had always thought of them as being an older, European version of Santa, or Saint Nick, before the Coca Cola illustration refreshed his whole public image!

Wrong, wrong, wrong!! Today's version, commonly called a Belsnickel Santa, is a homogenized, reformed shadow of his former self, and now I look at my well meaning gifts as a bit of a fraud, created in a likeness to be appealing to the general public. 

In earlier days, his history was varied depending upon country and culture, but he was a gruff, sinister looking character, dressed in furs from head to toe, and carried switches, not evergreen trees, wreaths, flags, nor bags of toys.  He accompanied St. Nick, and either passed out the birch branches to Mothers to use on their children during the coming year, or used them on children, himself.

Then I learned that Santa had several other travelling companions.

One of them was Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete.  He was more mischevious than mean, also carrying switches to use on misbehaved children.  Again, different cultures portray him a bit differently.  Some say that he was dark skinned, while others say he was simply dark from the soot of the chimneys he went down.  Some say that he was an agent of the Devil, that Santa captured, and kept chained, and as punishment, had to accompany Santa on his deliveries. Others say that he was a slave, while others say that he was a free man, who simply helped Santa in delivering just punishment for being named on the naughty list.

But those two are nothing compared to the next two.  These I rate on the fright factor, right up there with some of the modern day horror elements that I find totally distastful for Halloween.  I'm sorry if I am offending anyone, but I don't like the way that gore and physical mutilation has worked its way into Halloween. I guess I am of the old generation of paper mache, cotton batting and tin, and letting a good imagination carry you a long way. But I digress.

These two characters make ghosts pale by comparison, and goblins look like garden faeries.

The first on MY naughty list is Le Pere Fouettard, translated to mean The Whipping Father.  He accompanied Santa, dispensing lumps of coal or flogging naughty children.  He emerged during the Victorian period, in the U.S., as Father Flog.  He and his "beloved" Mother Flog would dole out appropriate punishment for childhood "crimes", such as cutting out tongues of those that tell lies.  Not our typical image of Christmas, is it?  He wore black or dark robes, had long unkept hair and beard, and carried whips, a large stick, or twigs for whipping.  He also carried a large basket on his back for carrying away children.

And if he isn't scary enough, then a Krampus is sure to give you nightmares!
Translated to mean "claw", he travels with Santa, punishing children by Birching them with sticks. He also carries a basket on his back to carry away children and dumping them into the pits of Hell.  Krampus are still making appearances throughout Europe, today.

I'm not going to get into the psychological damage that parents inflicted upon their children, or the need to control them through blood curdling fear, but I was shocked to find out, after all of these years, that such characters existed in association with a holiday that I always viewed as nothing but excitement, glittery colors, beautiful music, family & friends, and extemely sugary fun!  

I know that I was a VERY good child growing up, probably to the point of matching Christmas in the overly sweet department, but I have to tell you, if I had to face a visit from these guys, just to get a gift from Santa, I probably would have said, thanks but no thanks!  I also always had a very active imagination, and seeing one of these guys walking in the door, would have sent me into permanent paralysis and a deep coma.  This version looks like he came straight out of Lord Of The Rings!

I would rather be visited by a nice Halloween Spirit, any time!

And now it is almost the first of the new year.  A time to start earnestly thinking about Halloween! After all, it is only 10 months away!  Nine months if you want to decorate for the whole month!  Lots of planning to do!!

So please, start the year off safely, so that you can enjoy your long anticipated Halloween season in 2010!

Happy New Year, Everyone!!!



  1. What a wonderful read! I did not know about The Whipping Father or Mother Flog.
    Christmas Characters are not as sugary sweet as most people might think.
    Here's wishing you health & wealth, love & laughter in the coming year!

    {Thanx for the link. :0) I'll be posting an orb update soon}

  2. It's a shame it has all been simplified and become so politically correct. These characters are rich! Do you know about La Befana, the scary old christmas witch?


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