The scariest Christmas Monsters from folklore. Every country has different customs during the Christmas season. Some of these customs have their roots in ancient pagan beliefs. Christmas Monsters are used by parents to keep children in line. If they don’t behave themselves, they won’t get any Christmas gifts and a terrifying monster will come and kidnap them.
Krampus is the evil demon anti-Santa, or maybe his evil twin, who is used as a tool to encourage good behavior in children. Krampus Night is celebrated on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day in Austria and other parts of Europe. Public celebrations that night have many Krampuses walking the streets, looking for people to beat. Krampus may look like a devil, or like a wild alpine beast.
Jolakotturinn is the Icelandic Yule Cat or Christmas Cat. He is not a nice cat. In fact, he might eat you. This character is tied to an Icelandic tradition in which those who finished all their work on time received new clothes for Christmas, while those who were lazy did not (although this is mainly a threat). To encourage children to work hard, parents told the tale of the Yule Cat, saying that Jólakötturinn could tell who the lazy children were because they did not have at least one new item of clothing for Christmas—and these children would be sacrificed to the Yule Cat.
Tales told in Germany and Austria sometimes feature a witch named Frau Perchta who hands out both rewards and punishments during the 12 days of Christmas (December 25 through Epiphany on January 6). She is best known for her gruesome punishment of the sinful: She will rip out your internal organs and replace them with garbage. The ugly image of Perchta may show up Christmas processions in Austria, somewhat like Krampus.
Hans Trapp is another “anti-Santa” who hands out punishment to bad children in the Alsace and Lorraine regions of France. The legend says that Hans Trapp was a real man, a rich, greedy, and evil man, who worshiped Satan and was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. He was exiled into the forest where he preyed upon children, disguised as a scarecrow with straw jutting out from his clothing. He was about to eat one boy he captured when he was struck by lightning and killed—a punishment of his own from God. Still, he visits young children before Christmas, dressed as a scarecrow, to scare them into good behavior.
In Finland, they have Joulupukki who is similar to Krampus. He has horns and hooves like some kind of demonic goat and he loves to beat naughty children with a tree branch until their backsides are bleeding. He comes to your house and asks, “Are there any good children here?” He doesn’t bother giving out presents. Instead, you have to give him presents to avoid a beating.
The Jólasveinar, or Yule Lads, are 13 Icelandic trolls, who each have a name and distinct personality. In ancient times, they stole things and caused trouble around Christmastime, so they were used to scare children into behaving, like the Yule Cat. However, the 20th century brought tales of the benevolent Norwegian figure Julenisse (Santa Claus), who brought gifts to good children. The traditions became mingled, until the formerly devilish Jólasveinar became kind enough to leave gifts in shoes that children leave out… if they are good boys and girls.
All the Yule Lads answer to Gryla, their mother. She predates the Yule Lads in Icelandic legend as the ogress who kidnaps, cooks, and eats children who don’t obey their parents. She only became associated with Christmas in the 17th century, when she was assigned to be the mother of the Yule Lads. According to legend, Grýla had three different husbands and 72 children, all who caused trouble ranging from harmless mischief to murder.