Showing posts with label Belsnickel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Belsnickel. Show all posts

Jan 6, 2012

What's in a Name, Belsnickel

German for "fur-Nicholas," is a fur-clad Christmas gift-bringer figure in the folklore of southwestern Germany, where my family is originally from. The figure is also preserved in Pennsylvania Dutch communities.

Belsnickel's fur covers his entire body, and he sometimes wears a mask with a long tongue. He is a companion of Saint Nickolas, a bit scary, and visits children at Christmas time to deliver socks or shoes full of candy, cakes, nuts, and fruit, but if the children are not good, they will find coal and/or switches (stick) in their stockings instead. Other traditions had him strewing those goodies on the floor and if an adult bent down to pick up something they were hit on the back from Belsnickel with a switch.

In many places, Belsnickel was a precursor to Santa Claus or St. Nickolas and the popularity in the US faded in the early 1900s. Many of the old traditional Santa equivalents always had coal and a switch for bad kids along with the goodies. Alas, many good life lessons have been replaced with the current - everyone gets everything attitude.