These are 4 scary holiday characters from around the world to watch out for
By Ed Ghost, Staff Writer
Around this time last year, The Reflector gave you a list of strange holiday traditions, and this year we want to expand on some of the scarier yuletide characters that exist around the world. Here are four of the creepiest, and the traditions that go along with them.
Wales is known for its abundant sheep population, beloved children’s author Roald Dahl, having one of the most difficult European languages to learn, and in South Wales, an anonymous “floating” horse skull at your door beckoning for you to let it come into your home, drink all your beer and eat your food. Wait a minute… That doesn’t sound like your average Christmas caroler.
The Mari Lwyd is a wassailing folk tradition that was first documented in the 1800s — though it is said to predate Christmas itself, it is often performed around the same time of year. The tradition consists of your mates dusting off their finest horse skull (which we all have laying around, right?), adorning it with bells and other colourful babbles, attaching it to a pole and a bedsheet so as to conceal themselves, knocking on your door and requesting — via rhymes called “pwnco” — entry into your home so that they may help themselves to your hospitality.
And the only way to stop the horse from coming in? Singing back reasons and riddles as to why it shouldn’t. This goes back and forth until the horse acquiesces, or you give up and let it in your home to do as it pleases, which sometimes includes stealing things and chasing the person the horse “likes.” There is good news in all of this though — if the Mari gains entry into your house, it’s said to bring good luck for a year.
By now, it would be hard to find someone who hasn’t heard of the Krampus, thanks to the internet and the 2015 movie of the same name. In the last few years, this half-goat, half-demon has gotten a lot of attention, and frankly, he’s so cool that he deserves a little more.
We all know about Santa’s naughty or nice list, but did you know that in central Europe, if you’re naughty, you don’t get coal — you get taken by one of St. Nicholas’ sinister sidekicks to his lair in hell, presumably never to be seen again? (Just kidding, he’ll let you go after a year of torture.) Sounds scary, right? So we may as well celebrate it.
There are a few celebrations dedicated to the Krampus, one being Krampuslauf — where thousands of men dress up in their best devil costumes and take to the streets to drunkenly cause mayhem and mischief all as an ode to the demon, and to “inspire” children to be on their best behaviour. Children are encouraged not to catch any of the demons’ attention while they roam the streets to prove they’ve been good.
The Krampus has been the snake-tongued companion to Kris Kringle for centuries, and prior to kidnapping the children, he was known to beat them with birch sticks and whip them with the hair of a horse before stuffing them into a cramped whicker sack.
That handful of chimney ash for not sharing your toys sounds a lot less harsh now, huh?
The first two creatures of folklore are incredibly tame compared to Frau Perchta, the Christmas witch — better known as the “belly slitter.”
Another character from Austrian Folklore, Frau Perchta (or Bertcha, depending on the source) is supposedly an old haggard woman with a beaked nose made of iron and a love of spinning flax.
Like Santa, she can be benevolent and generous to those she deems deserving — but unlike Santa, she punishes women who haven’t finished their weaving in time by trampling and burning their unfinished work, disembowelling them while they sleep and replacing their organs with rocks and straw.
That’s not all she’s into though — Frau Perchta is a very busy witch. She dabbles in flying through the night sky with the souls of the damned, is easy to bribe with bowls of porridge, likes to leave silver coins for those she favours, tends to trample disobedient children with dirty rooms and is the reason you can sometimes hear the sound of thunder at night during the holidays.
Elf on the Shelf
Definitely the most local of traditions, and certainly the scariest, Elf on the Shelf came to be thanks to the Christmas book of the same name. Legend has it that every Christmas, a special elf-scout is sent to your home from Santa himself. During the day, he stays in toy form in a visible spot in your house, watching and waiting until nighttime falls so he can return back to Santa to snitch — I mean, report — as to whether or not you’ve been good.
There are rules to this arrangement, and if you think this elf looks like a really fun, inviting holiday toy for children, it’s not. This is a very important Santa spy. The elf is not to be touched and if it is then you will have quickly doomed the creature to a life of being inanimate. It will never see itself, your friends or your family ever again.
There is one exception though — if it was an accident, all your child needs to do is write an apology to Santa, and if he’s feeling generous or if that scout is particularly valuable to him, he will return life back to it — but only this once.
You are to leave offerings of cinnamon to your elf scout, and that will keep it fed and give it enough strength to get back to the North Pole every night. Maybe it will be lucky and be able to use its hard earned elf miles.
When the elf returns to you, it will be in a different spot than where it was left the day before, just to make sure it has all the ground in your house covered, but also because Barbie has some wicked parties in her dream house and sometimes the elf needs to stumble somewhere to sleep after a long night of travelling from the land of Bumbles and red-nosed reindeer.