This December we’re ushering out 2015 in a new way. Join us as we count down 31 Days Of Awesome and give you something new to do, see, make, eat, or buy every day in December. For today’s awesome, we’re schooling you on different Christmas character folklore from around the world. Keep reading to learn more about these strange, quirky, terrifying, and sometimes offensive versions of Santa.
La Pere Fouettard and Pere Noel
Pere Noel is the French iteration of Santa. He brings presents and has long white hair and beard, but instead of reindeer he is accompanied by a single donkey named Gui (which translates to “mistletoe”). La Pere Fouettard, however, is not as playful. His name translates to “The Whipping Father” and he acts as Pere Noel’s counterpart who flogs naughty children.
Belsnickel can be found in Germany and Austria. Similar to La Pere Fouettard, Belsnickel accompanies Santa to punish misbehaved children. He’s depicted as a mountain man who wears heavy furs and tattered clothes. You might remember Dwight Schrute’s impersonation of Belsnickel in the final season of The Office.
Krampus the Demon
Krampus is a clawed demon of the Alpine countries. Like Belsnickel and La Pere Fouettard, Krampus accompanies a jolly, friendly Santa to scare and punish children who didn’t make the nice list. In the darker versions of Krampus’ folklore, he would kidnap the worst children of the town, put them inside a burlap sack and throw them into a river.
The Jolasveinar, or Yule Lads of Iceland are a band of 13 gnomish Christmas characters. Each lad is mischievous and plays a different and specific trick. Skyrgámur is obsessed with skyr, an Icelandic yogurt. Stúfur steams pie tins and eats the crust left on them. Stekkjarstaur walks on peg legs and bullies sheep.
Sinterklaas and Black Peter
Sinterklaas is a Dutch Santa. He is one of the sources that North American Santa is based on. Like Santa, he is an elderly man who wears red garments and has a long white beard. He wears a bishop’s hat and carries a big red book titled “The Book of Sinterklaas” where he records the names of all the children who have been naughty or nice. Unfortunately, Sinterklaas also has a black slave named Peter, who’s caused a huge controversy as he’s usually depicted by a white man in blackface.