The Dark Side of Santa: 4 Traditions to Scare the Naughty Right Out of Your Kids


Wondering how to keep your kids on the straight and narrow this holiday season? It's a challenge: Nowadays, the threat of a stocking filled with coal is no kind of incentive for good behavior. And that tattletale elf hanging around the house keeping tabs? I guess he's creepy enough to curb naughtiness to a point, but let's face it: There's nothing like putting the fear of Krampus in a kid to guarantee his spot on Santa's "nice" list ... forever. 

Don't know Krampus? He's just one of several terrifying Santa alternatives moms and dads used to rely on back in the day to stop children from getting out of line around Christmastime. No joke: A visit from one of these guys makes a lump of coal sound like a fricken' iPad. Read on to find out more about these frightening figures -- not that you'll actually use your newfound knowledge to terrify your children or anything. Still, just in case ...

Image via Rowena/Flickr

  • Black Pete


    Image via Charles Hutchins/Flickr

    According to Dutch folklore, when Santa Claus came to town, he brought Black Pete with him. The twisted team split up their workload thusly: Santa filled the stockings of good boys and girls with toys, etc.; Black Pete beat bad boys and girls over the head with a big stick. (Perhaps that's how the whole visions of sugarplums thing started? Trauma-induced hallucinations?)

  • Krampus


    Image via Rowena/Flickr

    Also known as "The Christmas Demon," Krampus is/was legendary in Europe for beating naughty types with a switch and dragging them off in baskets to a fiery doom. Better not pout, BETTER NOT CRY!!!

  • Belsnickel


    Image via Amazon

    Originating in Germany, Belsnickel lived on in Pennsylvania Dutch communities as a sort of cranky hobo who carried a switch around to remind kids that any mistakes made during the holidays would result in a.) no presents and b.) a beating. It's the most wonderful time of the year!

  • Knecht Ruprecht


    Image via Lucas/Flickr

    Also from Germany (damn, being a little kid in olde tyme Germany must have been rough!), Knecht Ruprecht appeared in homes on St. Nicholas Day to ask children whether or not they could pray. Kids who answered "yes" were rewarded with apples and gingerbread; kids who were foolish enough to say "no" got beaten with a bag of ashes. (Collected on his way down the chimney, I presume?)

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