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Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Sinister Santas

The weekend before last I met up with some of my Falmouth friends for a little pre-Christmas/end of the year get together. We did the typical Christmas time things of eating gingerbread, drinking mulled wine and watching a Christmas film (as well as Pitch Perfect, but that’s irrelevant). However, it wasn’t your typical cheery and merry, child-friendly Christmas film…

“In the depths of the Korvatunturi mountains, 486 metres deep, lies the closest ever guarded secret of Christmas. The time has come to dig it up! This Christmas everyone will believe in Santa Claus.” – Rare Exports

Rare Exports is a Finnish [subtitled] film set in Lapland, on the border of Russia – a place as dark and cold as the humour in the film. It made for a far more interesting film than most festive rubbish.


The Santa in the film is a ‘Joulupukki’ or Yule Goat – which might not sound so scary but legends tell of a devil-like creature who terrified children.

“Joulupukki was once a symbol of fertility and more of a frightening figure back then than today. He was clad in thick fur-lined coat turned inside out, wearing a mask and a pair of horns on his head.”dlc.fi


But Finland isn’t the only country with a more sinister kind of Santa, in fact many countries around the world have their own variations. I read a great little article at the weekend, courtesy of Scroobius Pip on Twitter (as in, he led me to it – he didn’t actually write it).

“Earlier this year I set out to research the history of Father Christmas. I was fascinated by this mythical housebreaker who rewards the good and punishes the naughty. Santa struck me as being an older, gentler Robin Hood and I wanted to discover how and why the fabled gift-giving of St Nicholas had transformed into this magical character with a home at the North Pole and a workshop of elves.

What I discovered instead were stories of strange and terrifying creatures that wandered the winters of medieval Europe. Before Santa, and before Christmas firmly took hold in Europe, the middle of winter was seen as a harsh, sinister time filled with deadly and demonic monsters.” Paul Hawkins, Naughty or Nice?

On Paul Hawkins’ blog he has been posting a different Bad Santa article everyday as part of an advent calendar, which accompanies the book – Bad Santas: and Other Creepy Christmas Characters. The first two of the illustrations below are featured in the advent calendar (and book) and link to those posts. The others I’ve found elsewhere on the Internet.

The Greek Kallikantzaroi (illustration by Mel Four)

The Dutch Sinterklaas (illustration, again, by Mel Four)

The German (and Austrian, Hungarian, Slovakian, Croatian… etc.) Krampus

The Icelandic Yule Lads
Merry Christmas!

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