Hey everybody! Give me one more minute here. I forgot all about the Brotherhood’s annual Secret Santa exchange, and I’m kind of scrambling. I drew Anti-Tank Sally this year too, so forgetting is not a safe option. It’s a little late to go shopping, so I just threw together a big pile of my least-empty bottles of various alcohols. If I know Sally, she’s gonna love it. If I don’t, it’s been nice knowing you guys. I’m just thankful the real Santas don’t half-ass Christmas like this.

Yeah, I said real Santas. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he is legion. Every Christmas-celebrating culture has their own unique twist on the festivities, and it’s lead to some overlap in the Kringle department. Sure, you’ve got your standard-issue Coca-Cola Santa, but you’ve also got your Sinterklaases and your Fathers Christmas and your Ded Morózy and countless other variations. By and large the Santas are benign. I’ve met a Santa or two in my day, and they’ve all been top notch fellas. They bring your presents and eat your cookies and everybody stays happy. No, it’s the Santas’ helpers you need to watch out for.

KrampusYou kids today have it easy! Worst thing Santa Claus is gonna do to you is leave a lump of coal in your stocking. And really, let’s be honest. These days even the bad kids get presents. The fat man’s getting soft in his old age! Time was, the coming of the Kringle meant a better than average chance you were about to get the beating of a lifetime. At best! No, Ol’Jelly Belly was never one to get his bemittened hands dirty. That honor went to any of the countless Santa companions that litter the folklore. The Krampus is probably the most famous one these days, thanks to a recent resurgence in popularity. A feature of Austrian folklore, your typical Krampus is an honest-to-chthonic-god demon, raised from the Pit and bound in service to our buddy St. Nicholas. Exactly why St. Nick carts around a denizen of the underworld has never really been explained, but at least he puts the beast to good use sniffing out the naughty children and whipping the bejeezus out of them with a birch switch. That lump of coal is sounding better and better, right?

Zwarte Piet

Not cool, Netherlands! Not cool!

The Krampus isn’t alone. The European continent is chockablock with Santa companions willing to kick some ass in the name of Christmas. Germany’s got Knecht Ruprecht, who’ll beat you with a sack of ashes for being bad. Over in the Netherlands they raise the bar with the staggeringly racist Zwarte Piet, who stuffs the bad kids into a burlap sack and hauls them away to Spain. Spain? I guess Dutch kids really hate paella or something. There’s also a string of really sketchy looking dudes like Belsnickel or Père Fouettard. These kid-whippers look like the sort of guys who would need to be going door-to-door anyway, if you catch my drift. Like, legally. It’s a sex offender joke, people! Jolly old St. Nicholas keeps some weird company is what I’m saying.

The worst of the bunch is probably Frau Perchta. A former goddess, Perchta seems a little pissed off about her reduced status in the collective consciousness. Perchta’s ambitious, and she doesn’t limit herself to preying on naughty children. Kid or adult, doesn’t matter to her. If you’ve been naughty, Perchta’s coming for you. And you’re not getting off easy with a beating, or even getting stuffed in a sack and carted off to parts unknown. Nope, she’s gonna slit your belly, yank out your entrails, and replace the whole mess with rocks and straw. Yeah. Frau Perchta don’t @&#% around! You’re better off sticking to the straight-and-narrow, unless your life’s ambition is to become the world’s worst pinata.

Not everybody’s got a Santa though. Take Iceland for instance. It’s an interesting place. A tiny population of Vikingspawn who have somehow managed to thrive on a tiny, sulfur-stinking island made entirely of volcanoes. It’s led to some interesting Yuletide traditions, like the Jólasveinarnir, or “Yule Lads”. Thirteen tiny little dudes who show up in the weeks before Christmas to play pranks. They’re named for their pranks of choice like Hurdaskellir (Door-Slammer), Bjúgnakraekir (Sausage-Swiper), and Skyrjarmur (Skyr-Gobbler; skyr being a special kind of Icelandic cheese that is clearly just weird yogurt. Come on, Iceland, you’re not fooling anyone with your fancy words). The Yule Lads are brothers, born from a pair of mountain trolls, and if you knew anything about trolls, you’d know there’s no way there were only thirteen kids in that litter. Those things breed like tribbles. The thirteen that get talked about are just the family friendly ones. No mention of the black sheep of the family, like Lungnaslettir (Lung Splatter) who would chase children down and beat them with his own lungs. Or Flórsleikir (Dung-Channel Licker) who—ugh! How the hell is that a prank!? Gross, Iceland. Just gross. Iceland’s also home to the Jólaköttur, a massive, vicious cat that eats people who didn’t get new clothes for Christmas. Because being poor at Christmas doesn’t suck enough on its own.

Alright kiddos, that’ll do it for this year. I’m sure you’ve all been good boys and girls this year, but you might want to board up your chimney and set up some proximity mines on the roof just in case. As for me, I’m off to play party host. I throw a little get together this time each year with a bunch of my time-travel buddies, Bill and Ted style. Just need to blast through the language barrier with a couple of universal translators and everybody has a great time. Delicious meats from extinct animals, vintage booze from long lost cultures, and one hell of an interesting white elephant exchange. Seriously, one year Hannibal brought a white elephant! So here’s hoping your holiday is…let’s be realistic and say about a quarter as interesting and fun as mine. Happy Winter-Solstice-Festival-Surrogate-of-Choice everybody!


Kentucky Blue ClayAbout the Author:

Kentucky Blue Clay is a renowned archaeologist, professor of Applied Chronology at Pacific Northwest University, and Official Historian for the Brotherhood of the Celestial Torch. Oh yeah, and he’s got a time machine too.

Ho ho hold on! Tune in to Dead Gentlemen’s Dead.FM podcast next Wednesday, December 24th, for a special, audio, Christmas Storytime with KBC. Or, you know, whenever. It’s a podcast, not live radio. Just listen when you get a chance.