Last year, my partner introduced the kids and me to the character of Belsnickel, Santa’s grouchy “cousin.”
Legend has it: Shortly before Christmas, a dirty, disheveled, cranky man wearing furs would arrive at your house. He held a hickory switch in one hand and a sack full of candy and nuts in the other.
He would call the children forward and asked them to recite a poem, a Bible verse or math equations. He’d warn them to behave. Then he’d toss the goodies on the floor — and if the greedy kids dove for the candy, he’d hit them on the back with the switch.
Belsnickel (also Belschnickel, Belznickle, Belznickel, Pelznikel, Pelznickel) 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. ~ Wikipedia
Basically, the whole thing was to scare kids into behaving… for Santa. Not unlike a certain other Christmas character who sits on a shelf.
Unsurprisingly, Holden LOVES Belsnickel… so much in fact that she asked for a Belsnickel doll this year.