Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The 12 Scares of Christmas: Belsnickel

Tonight, we continue a seasonal series, exploring the darker side of Christmas. In this season of the darkest nights of the year and ancient traditions celebrating the passing of the season, those of us who are lucky enough to have haunted hearts appreciate the darker, creepy and sometimes terrifying aspects of the winter holiday-- some of which could not be more a part of the Christmas holiday in their own right.

For the eleventh scare of Christmas, we head to Germany. Meet Belsnickel, a miserly old gift-bringer who is celebrated in southwestern Germany-- by the Rhine, the Saarland, and areas of Baden-Wuttenberg. The tradition of Belsinckel has also been brought to some Pennsylvania Dutch communities. Belsickel is also found in parts of Newfoundland. 

 Several weeks before Christmas, Belsnickel visits homes of good and bad children alike. For the good girls and boys, Belsnickel brings gifts. For the bad, he carries and switch, with which he beats bad children and tries to scare the naughty from them. He is almost always portrayed as mean, with dirty clothes, and ill-tempered-- perhaps like a less well kept, German Ebeneezer Scrooge. 

 Belsnickel. He knows if you've been bad or good. And if you are bad he beats you. There, ghosts and witches, is our 11th scare of Christmas. 

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