From Krampus to Elf on the Shelf to the Yulelads, strange characters come out at Christmas


MYSTERY WIRE — If you think the kids couldn’t get to sleep last night because they were excited about Christmas morning, you’re wrong. All that chocolate? Ho, ho no.

It was probably night terrors over all the legends we have rolled out to assault their innocent minds.

They may not believe in Santa Claus, but those other Christmas stories have left scars you can’t see on the outside.

Elf on the Shelf — Another veiled threat, but in brighter colors. Born from “The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition,” published in 2005, this elf is a psychological tormenter who sits on the mantle making notes to report back to Santa. Children are forbidden from touching the elf, which would rob the elf of magical powers to return to Santa. So if the elf is there on Christmas morning, there will be hell to pay.

Krampus — The big daddy of replacing “merry” with “scary.” Krampus has been described as the Old World’ antithesis of Santa Claus. Just the first of many European Christmas creep-fests in our lineup, Krampus was the big stick carried by parents looking to put fear into children’s hearts if they didn’t behave. If a child wasn’t careful, they would be tortured, kidnapped and taken to the Krampus’ lair.

Farmhand Rupert — Deeper into religious culture, the German tradition of “Knech Ruprecht” is around to make sure children remember the “Christ” in Christmas. Kids who don’t pray are “beaten with a bag of ashes.”

13 Yulelads — Christmas visitors who plan to overstay their welcome, playing pranks all the while. Modern versions of the legend soften the blow, while the old stories tell that any children who don’t get new clothes will be kidnapped and eaten. How’s that scratchy sweater sounding now?

Gryla — The ogre mother of the Yule Lads. She loved children. Specifically, naughty children with a dash of salt and pepper.

Whipping Father — The legendary murderer and connoisseur of stew made from children gave up his bad habits to hang out with St. Nick and whip bad children. Known as Le Pere Fouettard in France and Belgium.

Werewolf — Did you know that the simple act of being born on Dec. 25, which is seen as “mocking Jesus,” is punishable by lycanthropy (being turned into a warewolf)?

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