#3. Pere Fouettard and Belsnickel
Pere Fouettard, aka Father Whipper, is a partner at Santa's French office. He is often seen accompanying the French St. Nick, Pere Noel, on his adventures. The black-clad Mr. Fouettard appears to be a shadow Santa of some sort: His character completely ignores the whole "Happy Holidays" business. Instead, he walks around looking like Jack the Ripper's broke-ass cousin and whips people.
"Presents are for pussies."
Yep, Pere Fouettard's entire job description is to do what Santa is too chicken to do himself: Locate the naughty kids and open a can of Christmas whoop-ass. There's no coal and no gray area and no lessons; it's all whipping, all the time. All whipping, no waiting. What time is it? Fuck you, it's whip time, that's what time it is. It's an all-you-can-whip buffet, and Fouettard's whipping arm has been training in the off season.
Remarkably, Fouettard won't hog ALL of the sweet whipping action. The Belsnickel, a fur-clad figure with his face obscured by rags, goes around giving children candy -- and then whips them anyway, just out of principle. While this may seem more dickish than truly creepy, keep in mind that a Belsnickel looks like this:
None of these people were ever found.
Every pop culture character has a cool evil counterpart to combat ... except Santa. All he gets is the occasional joke brawl against maniacs like the Ultimate Warrior. In fact, outside professional wrestling and the occasional movie, the concept of dark Santa Claus is criminally underused. Yes, I'm saying Kris Kringle needs supervillains, and yes, I'd like to think that we as a society are willing to address this issue.
#2. La Befana
La Befana is a benevolent character who is extremely popular in certain parts of Italy. She brings children gifts and candy (or lumps of coal if they're nasty), much like Santa would. The major difference is that she flies on a broom, dresses in tattered clothing, and generally looks like your average evil fairy tale witch.
Note: This painting is just supposed to depict a woman on a broom. If you see the Yule Cat
anywhere in this painting, your computer is haunted.
Sure, there are tons of hot witches running around the media field, but a classic, warty witch-on-a-broom character is pretty hard to find these days. Even when a wicked witch scores a visible role in modern culture, she's generally played by Mila Kunis or some other striking beauty. People just don't appreciate the crone character anymore. Even La Befana herself isn't above this -- these days, many Italians apparently like to depict her like this:
This is precisely why the inclusion of the original La Befana in holiday lore would bring much needed gravity to the ugly witch character. Plus, it would be fun seeing the kids' faces when their $400 gaming console is delivered by a creepy old enchanter in a tattered dress instead of the usual jovial figure in red.
#1. All Sorts of Goat Monsters
In America, goats are generally not associated with Christmas. Europe, however, is a different beast: In one way or another, the horned omnivores are present in many countries' holiday traditions. Longtime Cracked readers may remember Krampus, the merry Austrian Christmas devil who hangs out with Santa and, oh yeah, abducts naughty kids and carries them to hell.
Even the girl who WASN'T naughty gets the total shit-gift of apples.
However, he's just one of the many traditional holiday hellbeasts roaming the old country. Scandinavian countries have the Yule Goat, an oddly dressed character that travels to houses along with other Christmas characters, frightening children and generally looking creepy as fuck. In Norway, groups of Yule Goats have traditionally indulged in a practice called julebukking, running around in costume imitating animal behavior, wreaking havoc, and scaring the snot out of children.
Inside that costume, there is a creature that used to be a man.
Finland ups the ante with a wonderfully crazy fringe character called Nuuttipukki -- a full-on horror movie monster who goes from house to house after the holidays, emptying the larder and drinking all the beer. If you don't get him drunk enough, a curse will fall on your house and the whole year will be a conga line of ridiculously bad luck. Nuuttipukki usually turns up as late as Jan. 13, thus turning the first weeks of a new year into a nonstop orgy of panicked waiting.
"Gimme all your beer, it's for the holidays. C'mon, don't make this weird."
Because they're awesome, that's why. These guys would essentially give us the option of turning Christmas into a second Halloween, only we could replace trick-or-treating with gift-giving, Christmas-style, and rampant drinking, Nuuttipukki-style. I don't know about you, but "Halloween with gifts and even more booze" sure seems like the best idea in human history to me.
This prospect has not gone entirely unnoticed. Krampus parties are already a thing in America and, of course, the character makes regular appearances in Austrian Christmas celebrations. And dressing up as creepy horn-beasts is just scratching the surface of the goat theme's full potential: For instance, the Swedish town of Gavle builds a giant, $30,000 Christmas straw goat every year. Once the Gavle Goat is up, half the townspeople rampantly protect it, while the other half apparently conspire to burn it down.
Sure, they could just build two of them every year, but it's way more fun this way.
You know what? Let's bring that tradition in as well. This season, let's all just say fuck it to regular Christmas, drink some beer, wear weird goat costumes, and build great big things out of straw. Because if there is a more badass way to celebrate the spirit of the holidays than a horde of drunken Nuuttipukkis playing a city-wide game of arson tag, I have no idea what it could be.
As 2013 draws to a close, be sure to check out Cracked's year in review because, well, we know you don't remember it half as well as you think.