Christmas Legends: Krampus & The Yule Lads – Guest Post with C. Michael McGannon

I am thrilled to have my son and Coauthor C. Michael McGannon with me as a guest today.  Michael and I are authors of Charlie Sullivan and The Monster Hunters: The Varcolac’s Diary (Book 1), and the soon to be released Charlie Sullivan and the Monster Hunters: Witch Moon (Book 2).  Between us we also have several short stories nearing publication.

Michael and I speak at conventions and special events together regularly, much of the time known as “The Monster Guys” as we speak and entertain about myths, legends, monsters, and other spooky things from throughout history and from all over the world.

With that in mind, Michael shares with us today, briefly, a bit of the darker side of Christmas.  In this 2-for-1 Guest Post, we learn a little more about Krampus, and also the Jolasveinar (The Yule Lads) as we scamper a wee bit closer to the festivities of Christmas Day.

Enjoy (and hide your cookies)! :)

Krampus
Guest Post with C. Michael McGannon, Part 1 of 2

Coal? COAL? You’re worried about coal?!

If you’re on the naughty list, coal is the least of your concerns, my friend.

Enter Krampus, a satyr from your worst nightmares.

In many Germanic countries, this Alpine fertility god would come behind (or before) jolly ol’ Saint Nick, and while the big man in a suit was putting out presents for the good boys and girls of the world, Krampus was beating the bad ones.

Traditionally, Krampus would beat you with one of the many birch branches that he carried in the wicker basket on his back. Sadistic and quite popular Christmas cards from the 1800s featured many worse fates for bad children as the cards depicted Krampus pulling out their hair, sending them off on a terrifying train, drowning them, or worse.

As if that wasn’t enough, after he was finished beating the children, Krampus would then drag them back to his lair.

The truly frightening thing? This “anti-Santa” was, according to some, one of the more obscure Jolasveinar (or Yule Lads – Christmas trolls of a sort – more about them below), and not really an “anti-Santa” at all.  In fact, he is believed by many to be a helper to Santa and part of the big Christmas-picture, if you will.

Krampus was sometimes thought to come on December 5th.  However, many renderings featuring the Krampus would feature him and Saint Nicholas getting along just fine, riding in the same sleigh, and often travelling on the same night.

Of note:  There is a holiday on December 5th, when men dress up as Krampus and take to the streets, invading houses to terrify children and drink lots of beer—as if there aren’t enough drinking holidays already.

So, Claus or Krampus?  Santa or Satan?  Old Saint Nick or just Old Nick?  Sees me when I’m sleeping?  Knows when I’ve been good or bad?  And what with the red suit?

Many believe, in a much darker-decked hall of Christmas…that Santa and Krampus are actually two sides of the same coin.

Naughty or Nicewhich side of the coin do you find yourself on?

Hmmm…. I’ve got my eye on you, Mr. Claus.  So be good for goodness sake!

The Jolesveinar (The Yule Lads)
Guest Post with C. Michael McGannon, Part 2 of 2

So you think you know all about Christmas, eh?

You know about Dasher and Prancer and Bambi, and that one on the right….and you even know about Rudolph.

And Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick.  And the terrible Krampus!!

But do you recall…the Jolasveinar?

The Jolasveinar!  The Yule Lads.  Thirteen trolls—give or take—that live in the Alps with names like Door-Slammer, Window-Peeper, Sheep-Cote, and Sausage-Stealer.

The Jolasveinar are said to come down from the mountains one at a time during the last 13 days before Christmas to cause mischief of one form or another.

Here are the “official” thirteen (in English, sorry), and in the order they come to town:

Sheep-Cote Clod

Gully Gawk

Stubby

Spoon-Licker

Pot-Scraper

Bowl-Licker

Door-Slammer

Skyr-Gobbler

Sausage-Swiper

Window-Peeper

Doorway-Sniffer

Meat-Hook

Candle-Stealer

Yeah…try making a song out of those names! Ha!!

Most of the Yule Lads being thieves, their names are pretty self explanatory (mostly).  Door-Slammer likes to slam doors in the middle of the night, and Window-Peeper peers through windows to find things to steal, Skyr-Gobbler likes to gobble skyr (a type of yogurt).

Some of the more obscure namesakes might be:  Sheep-Cote Clod (harasses sheep); Gully Gawk (watches from gullies and steals milk from barns); and Stubby (the shorter of the trolls who steals people’s pie-pans).

Each Yule Lad stays in town for two weeks before going back home, reminiscent of the Kallikantzaroi, who are Greek goblins that come up from the earth to irritate people during the 12 Days of Christmas.

While it is true that the Yule Lads were never outright evil, they were sometimes accompanied by a Yule Cat, who would devour children that had not received new clothes before Christmas that year.

Of course, in our modern nicety-nice culture, we’ve made the Yule Lads all look like Santa Claus copies, and watered down their criminal and devious behavior to being simple gift-givers.  Instead of giving coal to naughty children, they give potatoes (how sweet of them).

So…still think you know all about Christmas?

Sip some eggnog and sing so cheerily…but when it’s time to go to bed, lock up your spoons, scrape out your pots, and look behind the door, because Santa isn’t the only one who comes to town.

So, now that you know a little more about what takes place behind the veil of Christmas, what are some other Christmas legends and myths you know of that perhaps are a bit less known than Santa and his flying reindeer?

About C. Michael McGannon

C. Michael McGannon is the Co-author of Charlie Sullivan and the Monster Hunters: The Varcolac’s Diary and Charlie Sullivan and the Monster Hunters: Witch Moon and can be found to be lurking around Twitter and Facebook often.  You can also find him through Tumblr or through the “Monster Hunters” Official Book Website.

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