We all know Santa Claus is pretty great. What's not to love? He's jolly, he brings presents, and eats cookies! Other parts of the world aren't so lucky with their secular Christmas figureheads. Some are straight-up evil, beating, kidnapping, and even eating children!

Krampus is more than a spooky Christmas movie from 2015. Krampus originates from a pagan ritual parade meant to scare off ghosts according to Smithsonian.com. The scary creatures have a furry body, horns, and are part goat and part demon. The parade tradition is still present in parts of Europe.

Some tales team Krampus up with Santa Claus. While Santa stuffs stockings and leaves presents for the good little boys and girls, Krampus will beat naughty kids with birch branches or disappear with Krampus to be tortured or eaten. Yikes. I'll take the coal from Santa, please.

The Dutch Sinterklaas is similar to our American Santa Claus in that he wears red, has a white beard, and he visits children with gifts. Instead of a stocking, kids leave shoes next to the chimney awaiting Sinterklaas' arrival via a white horse instead of reindeer to fill the shoes with treats.

Sinterklaas is joined by the controversial Zwarte Piet aka Grumpus aka Black Pete. Controversial due to his appearance of blackface, Zwarte Piet is described as being half-man, half-beast and rattles chains and threatens to steal naughty kids.

German Girl in America recalls the tales she was told about German sidekick to Saint Nicholas, Knecht Ruprecht. Knecht Ruprecht is described as having a bushy beard, a brown cloak, and carries with him a stick and a bag. St. Nicholas will open a book, somewhat similar to the naughty or nice list, to see if the devil has written anything bad about the child. If there was something negative written, Knecht Ruprecht could end up stuffing the child into his bag. The good kids would get treats.

Befana sounds a lot like Santa Claus but truth is, she predates any tale about Kris Kringle. So, it's safe to assume many Santa stereotypes are largely influenced by Befana. She travels house to house via broomstick, going into homes via chimney, leaving treats for the good children and coal for the bad children according to Eataly.com.

This French Santa-sidekick is similar to Krampus and Knecht Ruprecht. There are many origin stories about Le Père Fouttard but one particularly gruesome tale is about how he was an evil butcher/cannibal who murdered three children and carved their meat. St. Nicholas showed up and resurrected the children and sent them to their parents. The butcher wanting to repent of his sins became St. Nicholas's eternal servant. He is said to beat bad kids with a whip.

This guy may sound familiar thanks to Dwight from the office bringing the Belsnickel to The Office with the scene even including ties to the controversial Zwarte Piet. With German and Swiss origins, Belsnickel would arrive in December wearing a mask of a child's family member and donning furs. Byers Choice writes that Belsnickel will knock on the children's bedroom windows with his switch used to beat the naughty kids. Frightened, kids would run and then their parents would sit them down in front of Belsnickel to answer for their behavior

Essentially a group of Father Christmases, Today the Yule Lads of Iceland take turns visiting kids on the days leading up to Christmas according to the Smithsonian. Good kids get treats while the naughty kids get rotting potatoes in their shoes. Like Snow White's Seven Dwarves they all have distinct personalities, according to the Smithsonian website:

Sheep-Cote Clod: He tries to suckle yews in farmer's sheep sheds
Gully Gawk: He steals foam from buckets of cow milk
Stubby: He's short and steals food from frying pans
Spoon Licker: He licks spoons
Pot Scraper, aka Pot Licker: He steals unwashed pots and licks them clean
Bowl Licker: He steals bowls of food from under the bed (back in the old days, Icelanders used to sometimes store bowls of food there - convenient for midnight snacking?)
Door Slammer: He stomps around and slams doors, keeping everyone awake
Skyr Gobbler: He eats up all the Icelandic yogurt (skyr)
Sausage Swiper: He loves stolen sausages
Window Peeper: He likes to creep outside windows and sometimes steal the stuff he sees inside
Door Sniffer: He has a huge nose and an insatiable appetite for stolen baked goods
Meat Hook: He snatches up any meat left out, especially smoked lamb
Candle Beggar: He steals candles, which used to be sought-after items in Iceland

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Day 3 of #folktaleweek is #witch. Grýla the Christmas witch of Iceland lives in a mountain cave with her husband (who is a giant yule cat!) and her 13 mischievous sons the Yule Lads. Each Christmas, Gryla comes down from her mountain dwelling to hunt for naughty children. She places them in a sack and drags them back to her cave where she boils them alive for her favorite stew. Her sons join her and do all that they can to terrify the children before they're stuffed in Grýla's sack (because scared kids are tastier!) one is named 'the door slammer' and another 'the sausage swiper', one of them goes around stealing candles so the children are left in the dark. If you haven't heard of Grýla and her family yet go do a quick Wiki search, you're in for a treat! . #folktaleweek2018 #Gryla #christmaswitch #instawitch #witchesofinstagram #folktale #fairytale #folklore #fable #forest_of_twinkling_fireflies #iceland #kidlit #kidlitart #childrensbookillustration #childrensillustration #childrenswritersguild #illustragram #illustratenow #illustrationartists #illustrationoftheday #illustratorsofinstagram #illustratorsoninstagram #kidsillustration #artforchildren #whimsyillos #whimsicalart #best_of_illustrations #scarystories

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Another Christmas witch who predates the Yule Lads and is less pleasant than Befana, Grýla hails from a cave in the hinterlands. Some tales say she's the mother of the Yule Lads. She is described as having multiple tails. One early poem reads,

“Down comes Grýla from the outer fields
With forty tails
A bag on her back, a sword/knife in her hand,
Coming to carve out the stomachs of the children
Who cry for meat during Lent.”

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Ded Moroz is Russia's version of Santa with some minor differences. Ded Moroz travels the land with a sidekick, his granddaughter Snegurochka. He travels by sleigh with horses instead of reindeer. Russiapedia does not that he has an evil side. He is said to favor the hard-working and good-hearted but is mean to those who are mean and lazy.

One of the more bizarre creatures truly ventures away from the legend of Saint Nicholas. Mari Lwyd comes from Wales and is a skeletal horse spirit. Families and friends decorate a horse skull and place it on a pole wrapped in a white sheet. The group then travels around the neighborhood attempting to gain access to homes to enjoy alcohol and food. The way to get in is to win at what's called a "pwnco" which is essentially a battle of rhyming insults. If the Mari comes in, it brings the home good luck for the next year.

Yup, I'm cool with jolly ol' Saint Nick.

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