Mythology is like the music industry: For every mediocre act that manages to get famous, there are dozens that are far more awesome but lack the mass appeal. The holidays are no exception. The time is dominated by Santa Claus, whose jolly jelly belly and regrettable fashion sense greet the post-Black Friday season every year as reliably as (elf-slave manufactured) clockwork.
But why must it always be boring old Santa? There are so many badass Christmas characters out there, just waiting for their time in the limelight. This year, let's give them a moment to shine.
#6. The Yule Family
Iceland's favorite Christmas creatures are known as the Yule family. They may sound like a happy congregation of elves, but don't be deceived by the soppy name: The family actually consists of a horde of trolls and their pet monster, Yule Cat, a giant demonic feline that stalks the land after the presents have been exchanged and eats everyone who isn't wearing new clothes. Because fuck your Christmas, poor people.
Oh, you're the thing judging everyone by their appearance!?!
The actual family consists of the mythical ogress Gryla and her 13 children, the Yule Lads. Gryla is an ancient, cunning creature who particularly enjoys hunting and eating children. This is her:
Her Lads are slightly less dangerous but equally mischievous creatures, who occasionally leave presents in a Santa-esque fashion, but whose true purpose in life is to wreck shit whenever Christmas is approaching. Each Lad specializes in a particular act of petty terrorism, ranging from everyday warfare (slamming doors at night, stealing sausages) to borderline serial-killer behavior like eating candles, licking people's spoons, and, um, harassing sheep. One of them carries a meat hook.
"I look so much like Santa. What can I do to really stand out? Got it -- it's obviously meat hook."
Icelandic legends, uh, aren't very big on the whole "Merry Christmas" thing.Why They Need to Be a Part of the Holidays:
The holidays are all about survival: gift shopping, insane traffic, "I gave you this present last year" stabbings, drunkies. It stands to reason that the mythological creatures of the season would follow the same general theme.
Let's just update the more outdated Lads a bit: The one who licks wooden spoons at night could take up unplugging everyone's phone chargers, and the candle guy can start, say, blowing fuses. That way, each and every one of them can participate in building our character by making December ever so slightly more hellish than it already is.
And if things get so chaotic on Christmas Eve that Gryla herself needs to pay a visit? Just have a friend storm in wearing an ogre costume and tell the kids (and the stupider adults) that the ones who behave from now on might not be eaten. Boom! Instant peace and quiet.
That goddamn cat can go hang, though.
Seriously, Yule Cat? Clothes?
Olentzero is a traditional Basque Christmas spirit: a friendly, immortal giant who spends the holidays bringing presents to children and eating insane amounts of food. He is usually depicted holding a wine flask, because Olentzero has long ago grasped the true meaning of Christmas.
Josu Goni Etxabe
"What'd you kids want for Christmas? I hope it was either this stick or for me to pee a whole lot."
If you're anything like me, there are two possible ways your Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa-Yule-Epiphany tends to go. If you're spending the holidays with your family, chances are you'll consume every piece of food in your vicinity in a manner that would be impossible for anyone who hasn't trained their stomach cavity to accommodate an entire turducken over Thanksgiving. After that, you might sneak a drink or 16. If visiting the family is not an option, you'll probably still do that exact same thing, only with less forced conversation and a lot more whiskey.
You will be visited by one Christmas spirit, often, and until it isn't Christmas anymore.
Notice a place for Santa in either of those scenarios? Hell no. The way you and I celebrate Christmas, a creepy bearded dude in a red, fur-laced boiler suit is not so much a beloved Father Christmas as he is a fever nightmare, brought to you by your tortured digestive system.
What we need is a symbol for our holidays. Olentzero is the perfect mythical creature for this purpose -- just an unassuming big guy who is prepared to eat and drink anything he can get his hands on. So come on, you drunk old fictional giant, pull up a seat and feast with us like the animals that we are.
#4. The Yule Log
Hey, look at this cute little guy:
Isn't that the sweetest log you've ever seen? He looks like he was carved by a 6-year-old who couldn't decide if he was making a puppy or a Pokemon. This adorable creature is known as Caga Tio, a variation of the Yule Log, and it's all about three things:
Fire, fecal matter, and death.
Yes, really. The original Yule Log was a huge chunk of wood that had to be kept burning for 12 days before Christmas to ward off evil spirits and disease, a tradition that is thought to derive from ancient Celtic human sacrifices. Caga Tio is basically the great-grandson of that tradition, with an added mutant power of pooping presents at people. Again, yes, really.
"Look into my eyes. Witness this. Witness this."
What practical use does this have, you ask? Come on, you've been Christmas shopping -- don't pretend that you don't secretly want to replace every mall Santa with a smiling wood golem that randomly poops flaming projectiles at people.