Not all Christmas traditions are all about a jolly Santa Claus and his trusty reindeer leaving behind the North Pole filled with merry, singing, and tinkering elves. Some involve a dark companion traveling along with Santa, or at least a version of him. The companions can be spooky or downright sinister, below are just a few
Near the France-Germany border region, the story of Hans Trapp spooks local children.
During the 15th century, Hans was said to have been a very rich and powerful man. He was known for his cruel and vain personality. The Catholic Church believed that he worshipped Satan and did black magic and occult rituals to get his wealth and power, so they ordered for him to be arrested and excommunicated.
Hans started living as a poor man in the forest but eventually, the solitude and boiling rage made him go mad and thoughts of cannibalism soon corrupted his mind. He then stuffed his clothing with straw and to disguise himself as a scarecrow waiting for a victim. Unfortunately a young boy fell prey to the madman and was cooked and prepared to be eaten. It is said God struck Hans dead with lightning just before his first bite.
Now Hans accompanies St. Nicholas during the holidays and warns children of what will happen if they choose to be wicked.
In Czech traditions, Svatý Mikuláš is this version of Santa Clause. Instead of a red suit and fluffy hat, he is dressed like a pope with a large staff. On December 5th he roams around the towns with his companions: one angel, an anděl, and anywhere from 1-10 demons, čert. While the anděl will give good children treats and gifts like toys, nuts, candies, or fruits, the čert will give the bad children lumps of coals or a bag of potatoes. The exceptionally bad children will get visits from čert in their homes to scare them or put them into his sack to take them to hell.
Le Père Fouettard, the Whipping Father
Usually described as either an innkeeper or butcher, it is said Le Père Fouettard and his wife decided to rob a group of boys they thought were rich and then kill them. The details of the murder are gruesome and some stories include drugging the boys, slitting their throats, and cutting them up. In short- it was gruesome. St. Nicholas heard of this sinister act and brought the boys back to life. He decided as Le Père Fouettard’s punishment, he must forever accompany him.
His appearance is certainly spooky, donning a dark set of robes, with dingy, scraggly, and long beard. He is almost always holding a switch or stick to spank children with and sometimes has on a wicker backpack to store the naughty children he has snatched. He brings these instruments with him on his visits to children with St. Nicholas.