There is nothing new about the custom of having a “heavy” to accompany Santa on his Christmas trek. Santa needs a “bad cop” to lay down the punishment when kids
misbehave at Christmastime. It’s a custom that spans the world and is a heart-felt tradition for millions of people. It kinda sucks that the cookie cutter Christmas we have here in the United States never adopted that custom. Oh well, at least we have the Elf on the Shelf to scare the crap outta our kids at Christmastime.
1. Père Fouettard
Le Père Fouettard or Father Whipper is a dastardly fellow who accompanies St. Nicholas in his rounds during St. Nicholas’ Day (6 December). If you are lucky, Père Fouettard will leave you coal when you have been naughty. For the ones not so lucky, he will use his Cat o’ Nine Tails and whip the ever loving crap outta you.
This dirty and filthy Anti-Santa dresses all in black and is draped in chains as a sign of his incarceration.
The origin of Le Père Fouettard was first told in the year 1150. An innkeeper captured three boys who appear to be wealthy and on their way to enroll in a religious boarding school. Along with his wife, he drugs the children, slits their throats, cuts them into pieces, and stews them in a barrel. St. Nicholas discovers the crime and resurrects the children. After this, St. Nicholas forces Le Père Fouettard to become his assistant as a punishment for his crimes.
2. Frau Perchta (German & Austria regions of the Alps)
Perchta was once a popular pagan goddess who was either the peaceful bringer of light or a vengeful goddess who punished people who broke taboo laws. With the onset of Christianity her role changed drastically.
She became a punisher of those who didn’t take part in religious celebrations and stalked loners who didn’t conform to the new laws of Christianity in the Alps region. When industry began to take over, her role morphed into that of a taskmaster that punished workers who didn’t live up to their employers expectations. This also went so far as to include young maidens who did not spin all of their yearly allowance of wool.
As time has gone by her role has been diminished to only Christmastime and she visits children during the 12 days of Christmas. If a child is good, she will leave a silver piece in their shoes but if a child is bad…well, we’ll get to that.
Children weren’t the only ones who had to be afraid, if anyone ate a large and rich meal on Christmas Eve also suffered the same fate as the bad children, they had their belly slit open and organs removed. Perchta would then fill the bodies with straw, dirt and trash.
3. Hans Trapp
The legend of Hans Trapp was based on a real man named Hans von Trotha. Said to be a rich and greedy man that fought with his neighbors over land and worshipped Satan, the evil Hans Trapp was eventually excommunicated by the Catholic Church and was exiled to the forest.
While in the forest, Hans grew more and more insane until one day he disguised himself as a scarecrow and waited motionless by the road. A young boy walked by and Trapp sprung to life, stabbing the child and dragged him off into the forest.. The tale goes on to say that Trapp chopped up the boy and placed the pieces on a spit and began to cook him. Before he could take one bite of his cannibalistic meal a bolt of lightning struck him dead.
Folklore says that at Christmastime Hans Trapp’s spirit takes the form of a scarecrow and either tries to lure bad children into the forest to be his next meal or abducts them from their beds. Its common for parents to say “Be good or Hans Trapp will eat you.”
4. Knecht Ruprecht
After cannibals and belly slitters Knecht Ruprecht is a nice guy. Also known as Servent Rupert, Knecht Ruprecht is a companion of St. Nicholas that has been appearing since the Middle Ages. He wears simple long brown or black ropes like that of a monk and in some older texts he takes on a more nature themed look.
When St. Nicholas visits children to bring gifts, Knecht Ruprecht tags along and asks the children a simple question “Do you know your prayers?”. If a child knows his or her prayers he rewards them with sweets or cakes from his pocket. If they do not know them then he either uses his stick to beat them or hands the stick to the parents to let them do the deed.
It is thought that Rupert was once a pagan deity that had his role changed with the on-set of Christianity but there are no records to back this claim up. The story that started appearing in the 17th century is either that of a farm hand or an abandoned child that St. Nicholas adopted. In some versions of the lore, Rupert walks with a limp and uses his walking staff to dish out punishment.
5. The Krampus
By far the most popular of the Anti-Santas, the Krampus (other than Belsnickel) has a following of sorts here in the United States. With an M.O. that is on par with other members of this list, The Krampus whips and abducts kids first and asks questions later. What really separates The Krampus from the rest of the pack is his beastly features and his long tongue.
It is theorized that The Krampus is a Christian interpretation of the Horned One or Horned God in pagan beliefs. Scholars believe that the added chains and devil like appearance are ways to “depower” the pagan god and paint him as evil and trapped by St. Nicholas.
The lore of the Krampus has stretched back to the dawn of Christmas but in Austria, the Krampus tradition was prohibited by the Dollfuss regime under the Fatherland’s Front and the Christian Social Party. In the 1950s, the government distributed pamphlets titled “Krampus Is an Evil Man”. Towards the end of the century, a popular resurgence of Krampus celebrations occurred and continues today.