Have yourself a
creepy little Christmas
Decorated trees, open fires, chestnuts, mince pies, mulled wine...ahhh Christmas how comforting you are! Or at least, you do seem that way. But you are not all you seem.
I have learnt there is more sinister side to our Yuletide, so readers lean in a little closer, turn down the lights and throw another log on the fire, for I have something to share with you that may just change how you view this 'merry' time of year.
Olentzaro - The throat slitter
Olentzaro is a character in Basque Christmas tradition, always depicted with a pipe in his mouth, he is said to come to town late at night on the 24th of December to drop off presents for children (sounds familiar).
So far so good, but it seems that Olentzaro does not take kindly to little children who refuse to go to bed. According to the legend, he will come down the chimney and slit the throats of any children still awake! Now there is an incentive for sleep (and no doubt nightmares!)
Despite this dark side to his character, Olentzaro is celebrated in the Basque Country in Northern Spain with effigies being carried through the streets during the festive period, a main role in school plays and during markets a chance for young children to queue up to sit on the child killers knee! Most disturbing.
Krampus & his wife Perchta
Most of us these days are familiar with who Krampus is, whether we live in its native Germany or not. For those who have never heard of him, listen carefully. Everything you thought you knew about Father Christmas has been a lie. Well, maybe not, but he does not visit you alone on 24th December. Old Saint Nick travels with an entourage of demons! According to German and Austrian tradition, his main sidekick is a demon called Krampus.
Good little children are rewarded with gifts from Father Christmas. Bad children however are dragged down to Hell by Krampus to burn in the fiery pit!
a very festive 19th century Christmas card
Austrian tradition takes this tale one step further. Children are raised with knowledge of another demon, this time a female. She is wife to Krampus, and her name is Perchta.
Perchta seems a little kinder than her Husband, or maybe she just prefers a more direct and swift punishment.
Perchata apparently visits naughty children before Santa and Krampus arrive with one purpose. To disembowel them. Nice.
At least they aren't destined for an eternity of pain I guess, 'tis the season for good will after all!
And now for something completely different.....
The Caganer (Shitter)
Yes do not adjust your screens, what you are seeing is absolutely a giant statue of a man wearing a Christmas hat and depositing his very own yule log in the middle of a shopping mall!
You'd be forgiven for assuming this was some act of rebellion by some anti-christmas organisation but no, if you were to visit Catalonia at this time of year you would find many a shitting man adorning the festive streets (hopefully just the artificial type but you never know!).
Let me explain, in Catalonia they do the traditional nativity scene a little bit (ok a lot!) differently. Instead of the scene being the manger, with baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph etc they portray the entire town of Bethlehem, and so have many more characters to depict. One such character is the Caganer (The Shitter) and Catalonians gain great pleasure in trying to find him (much like "Wheres Wally/Waldo?"). The idea is that he is the one person in Bethlehem who found himself with his trousers down emptying his bowels during the birth of Christ. I suppose statistically speaking there MUST have been at least one person in this most natural of situations that cold and starry night...although I doubt they were holding a candy cane!