Christmas is coming, and children are writing their letters to Father Christmas or Santa or Pere Noel depending on where the kids live. But no matter how odd it seems to receive gifts from a jolly fat man on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, Santa is not the strangest character who pops up in Christmas folklore.
Stories passed from parent to child and embellished with the telling over the centuries have given us an array of frankly bizarre festive folks. Here are 10 of the weirdest beasts, demons, and animals who might visit you this Christmas
10. The Yule Goat
In Sweden, Father Christmas did not always have a sleigh pulled by reindeer. He was once thought to ride a festive goat. The Yule Goat may be a descendant of the two goats which Thor used to draw his chariot across the sky.
Instead of bringing thunder and lightning, the Yule Goat helps Santa to bring his presents to good children. Small straw goats are very popular Christmas decorations in Scandinavia. The most famous Yule Goat of all, however, is not something you would want to hang on your tree. Not only is it huge, but it has the unfortunate habit of catching fire.
Every year in the Swedish town of Gavle, they erect a very large Yule Goat. And each year, someone sets fire to the goat. In recent years, local officials have tried to stop this arsonist tradition by making the straw used in the Yule Goat’s construction less flammable, putting cameras nearby to catch any attempts, and even posting guards. Despite these efforts, the tradition of the Yule Goat blaze has continued.
9. Frau Perchta
In parts of the German and Austrian Alps roams a terrifying character who can be either somewhat friendly or brutally mean. Frau Perchta may have her origins in the pagan religions which dominated the area before the coming of Christianity, but she has maintained a role in the modern world. And that role is horrific.
Frau Perchta is often shown as a crone with an animalistic face and a long robe. Below the robe, she keeps hidden her sharp knife. Frau Perchta tours homes during the 12 days of Christmas. If she finds a child who has been well-behaved, then she may feel inclined to leave him a small gift. If she discovers a naughty child, then she gets out her knife.
How does Perchta judge the naughtiness of a child?
She looks at your spinning. If you have not spun all your wool or flax into yarn by the end of Twelfth Night, then Frau Perchta will disembowel you with her knife. Having pulled out your innards, she will stuff you with straw and sew you back up. Gives a different meaning to feeling stuffed after your Christmas dinner.