We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about Belsnickel.
Belsnickel is a figure from the folklore of German-speaking areas of Europe. He appears as a disheveled old man with a long uncombed beard wearing dirty clothes. He carries a switch in his had to beat naughty children, but also a sack with cakes, candies and nuts for good children. Unlike some of the other St. Nicholas companions that appear, he visits alone, usually a few weeks before Christmas.
German immigrants to America brought the tradition with them, and Belsnickel is still a popular tradition in parts of Pennsylvania and Indiana. In The German areas of Pennsylvania, Belsnickel raps on the windows to announce his arrival and asks children questions they have to answer correctly to get treats. He throws the treats on the floor, but if the children scramble for them too quickly the might get hit by Belsnickel’s switch. In Indiana, Belsnickel is associated with general merrymaking on St. Nicholas’ Day Eve.