Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Belsnickel Tradition

Dwight Schrute as Belsnickel (If you do nothing else, watch this video. It is too funny.) Via
When I was a little girl, this character by the name of Belsnickel would drop by every New Year's Eve and leave us one gift in front of the fireplace (usually strewn with slightly rumpled party hats, poppers, and noisemakers from the New Year's Eve party my parents had attended that night). I grew to imagine him as a figment of my mother's imagination, an elf who had come flying out of her brain trailing pixie-dust at his feet. The Belsnickel of my imagination looked an awful lot like Peter Pan; he was sweet, a little naughty, and impishly cute. Little did I know, Belsnickel actually had some decidedly sinister origins.

Turns out, Belsnickel is a cousin of the Germanic Christmas devil, Krampus, a contrasting figure to Jolly Old Saint Nick who would bundle naughty children into a basket and trundle them away to his dark world (I was reminded of this connection last night after a friend jokingly suggested I sick Krampus on my naughty three-year-old. I had put her in time-out and told her, "Santa is watching you, and he is very disappointed in your behavior," to which she emphatically replied, "Santa is NOT at my house, and I KNOW it." I swear everyday is like battling a miniature version of myself.)

Because nothing says "Merry Christmas" like a Krampus greeting card
Here's Wikipedia on Belsnickel: "Belsnickel (also Belschnickel, Belznickle, Belznickel, Pelznikel, Pelznickel, from pelzen (or belzen, German for to wallop or to drub) and Nickelbeing a hypocorism of the given name Nikolaus) is a crotchety, fur-clad Christmas gift-bringer figure in the folklore of the Palatinate region of southwestern Germany along the Rhine, the Saarland, and the Odenwald area of Baden-Württemberg.
The figure is also preserved in Pennsylvania Dutch communities. The Belsnickel shows up at houses 1–2 weeks before Christmas and often created fright because he always knew exactly which of the children misbehaved. He is typically very ragged and mean looking. He wears torn, tattered, and dirty clothes, and he carries a switch in his hand with which to beat bad children. The children escape unharmed, but they are scared into being good so that Santa will bring them presents on Christmas.

I plan to continue my family's tradition of Belsnickel, leaving little presents on the hearth. Who knows, though? Maybe I'll bring back some of the scarier bits. It might get Sophie to behave;) (if not, I'm already stocked up on coal). Happy Tuesday! Now, back to grading. #livingthedream A/J
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