Don’t Be Naughty! The Belsnickle (and others!) are Coming to Town

Dwight Schrute as Belsnickel in The Office

screenshot from "The Office" on nbc

Dwight Schrute as Belsnickel in The Office

You better not pout, you better not cry, and I’ll tell you why:

Santa Claus isn’t the only one coming to town on Christmas eve.

Many cultures around the world have their own take on Santa, or have their own unique winter celebrations, often stemming from the longest night of the winter solstice. In these holidays there is an interesting cast of benevolent and malicious characters that make their appearance to both reward and punish kids.

Here are five visitors other than Santa who might be coming to your town this Christmas:

1. Knecht Ruprecht

Knecht Rupprecht
Knecht Rupprecht (Used by CC license from

In German culture, one of the members of Saint Nicholas’s entourage includes toy building elves, as well as Knecht Ruprecht. Whenever Saint Nick goes out rewarding gifts to the good children he is followed by Knecht Ruprecht. Just like Saint Nick, Knecht Ruprecht has his own group of helpers composed of mischievous elves called kobolds and men dressed as old women with blackened faces. These helpers assist Knecht Ruprecht with punishing kids for their lack of praying.

The punishments can be as mild as giving the kids sticks, coal, or rocks to giving parents a switch to beat the kids with.

On the other hand, the punishments can be as severe as smacking the child with a sack of ashes, lashing the child with a bundle of birch sticks, and putting the child in a burlap sack and tossing them into a river.

“So hang your stockings and say your prayers ‘cause Knecht Ruprecht comes tonight.”

2. Krampus


A 1900s greeting card reading ‘Greetings from Krampus!’ (Used by CC license from


A more infamous member of Saint Nicholas’s counterparts is the demonic goat-like being, Krampus.

Krampus is believed to be the son of the Norse goddess Hel, ruler of the underworld, and travels out to cleanse the land for the arrival of Saint Nicholas.

Krampus is often depicted as being chained and belled for additional intimidation and fear.

Once Krampus comes to a troublesome house he will resort to either beating the child or putting them in his bag. If you go in the bag you will have one of four different fates: either you will be tossed into an icy river, you will be eaten by Krampus, taken to Saint Nicholas for judgment or you will be taken directly to the underworld.

3. Gryla and Leppaludi

iceland figures
Gryla and Leppaludi (Used by CC license from,_Akureyri_(4899034211).jpg)

In Iceland, there is a family of Christmas characters. Gryla and her husband Leppaludi are giants that live in a cave in the Dimmuborgir lava fields. Gryla was a beggar woman that was ostracized after she asked people to give her their naughty kids.

Every Christmas Gryla will come to villages and take away the bad kids and make a stew out of them. Leppaludi is Gryla’s third husband and doesn’t do much but eat the kids Gryla collects. Gryla and Leppaludiave have a pet cat simply called the Yule Cat. The Yule Cat roams the countryside in search of those who have not been gifted clothes. Once he finds someone he will eat them.

The Danish royal family is in a real fear so much of these beasts to where they forbid their use in fear-mongering stories towards children and employees.

Gryla had thirteen known mischievous children. These kids are known as the Yule Lads and will terrorize homes for a series of thirteen days.

When they leave they will give good kids gifts and bad kids potatoes. The lads cause unique troubles for people. Gryla’s boys, Sheep-Cote Clod will attack sheep, Gully Gawk will steal milk from houses, Stubby will steal pans with unattended food in them, Spoon-Licker will lick spoons, Pot-Scraper will steal pots with unattended food in them, Bowl-Licker will hide underneath beds and steal bowls, Door-Slammer will slam doors at night causing people to wake, Skyr-Gobbler will eat your skyr which is food similar to yoghurt, Sausage-Swiper hides in the rafters of and steals meat out of smokers, Window-Peeper goes through windows to steal artefacts, Doorway-Sniffer will hunt down leaf bread which is a popular food for the time, Meat-Hook will steal meats with his hook hand, and Candle-Stealer will follow kids at night and eat their candles.

“So jump in bed, and cover your head, ’cause the Yule Lads come tonight”

4. Perchta

Perchta (Used by CC license from


In the mountains of Austria resides a woman named Perchta.

Pertcha is a fair-skinned lady with a crooked nose and a swan-like webbed foot caused by her constant spinning. She is the upholder and enforcer of tradition.

Two of these traditions are spinning all of the flax before Epiphany and eating only fish and gruel on Petcha’s feast day. To reward children for their compliance she will give them silver coins, but the naughty kids, especially girls, will be given rocks, sticks and their intestines replaced by straw.

Pertcha also takes part in leading an event called The Wild Hunt.

During the Wild Hunt religious and historical figures like Odin from Norse legend, Gabriel from the bible, and King Valdemar Atterdag from the Dutch nobility will lead massive raids on areas harvesting souls. The aftermath of a Wild Hunt is comparable to that of wars and plagues.

“Oh, bring us some fish and gruel, and bring it right here”

5. Belsnickle

Dwight Schrute as Belsnickel in The Office
Dwight Schrute as Belsnickel in The Office (screenshot from “The Office” on nbc)

Finally, last but not least, and closer to home in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, there is a creature known as Belsnickle who wonders the night at Christmas time draped in furs.

Belsnickle was first introduced to many American fans of the TV show The Office in a 2012 episode titled “Dwight Christmas”

In the episode, Dwight Schrute portrayed Belsnickle in a dirty coat, big fur hat, a coal smeared face, and a bushy ill-kept beard.

Dwight’s version of the PA Dutch legend was actually true to the PA Dutch tradtion.  The “real” Belsnickle will tap on the windows of houses luring children to them and begin to sing. When the children sing along they are compelled to open the window and allow Belsnickle entry to the domicile.

Once in the home, he scatters fruits and sweets on the ground expressing the innocence and merriment of the year and if the kids bend over to pick up the treats they are lashed with an enchanted hazel branch imprinting a sting and expressing the judgment of the season.

“Sleep in heavenly peace”

The beings previously mentioned are terrifyingly gruesome in their own right, but they are just small potatoes in comparison to the actual enforcers of the naughty and nice list.

The monsters above are just legends, stories, and tales to make children and abide by Santa’s wishes, but deities do indeed exist that will punish and reward without fail during any season.

These powerful beings are parental figures.

They will reward good behavior with privileges and punish the naughty however they seem fit.