Region of origin: Bavaria, Germany
An alpine goddess with numerous names, forms and roles, she was largely associated with weaving and spinning, fertility and as being a guardian of unbaptized children, beasts and the wilderness. She was also known to lead the Wild Hunt. During midwinter, she was said to visit households and reward those who had finished their work and behaved well with silver, but would slit open the stomachs of those who hadn’t and replace their intestines with straw and stones. She is assisted by a retinue of perchten, made up of Alfar-like bringers of luck and wealth and monstrous creatures who scared away evil and punished the wicked.
Originally posted on Tumblr on December 20, 2015
Region of origin: Greece and southeastern Europe
The kallikantzaroi were a horde of small chthonic goblins who spent most of the year attempting to chop down the World Tree that held up the Earth, until the twelve days of Christmas when it was the coldest and darkest above and they were free to venture to the surface and cause mischief. After they’re forced back down below on the Epiphany, they would find the tree had healed in the time they were gone and must begin their work anew.
Originally posted on Tumblr on December 18, 2015
Region of origin: Iceland
A monstrous cat who stalks the Icelandic countryside on Christmas Eve and eats anyone it finds who had not received new clothes for the Yuletide festivities. It is sometimes considered to be the pet of Grýla and her sons, the Yule Lads, another group of Christmas figures in Icelandic folklore.
Originally posted on Tumblr on December 17, 2015
The Green Knight
Region of origin: England
Arguably the “Die Hard is a Christmas movie” of Christmas monsters, the Arthurian stories of the Green Knight have been chronicled and discussed by those far more informed and verbose than I (as well as any number of high school English classes, I suspect). Origins of the knight’s unique coloring are spotty at best but some historians link him to the Green Man, a plant-faced man who appears as a motif in pagan and Christian iconography, as well as borrowing elements from similar earlier Celtic myths.
Originally posted on Tumblr on December 16, 2015
Region of origin: Val Camonica, Italy
As part of local Epiphany celebrations, communities in the Val Camonica region of Italy will capture the beastly Badalisc (represented by a man in costume) and parade it through town. In the town square, he, or often a proxy, will deliver a speech or poem about bad deeds committed by the people of the town (as a way of encouraging better behavior through the year, lest the Badalisc shames you in his proclamation) followed by a party where the creature is a guest of honor, before he is released back into the wild the next day.
Originally posted on Tumblr on December 15, 2015
Region of origin: Wales
A local wassailing tradition in southern Wales, the Mari Lwyd (represented by a hobby horse made from a horse’s skull or crafted simulacrum) is led in a procession of revelers around a town at dusk during Christmastime festivities, knocking on doors and engaging the residents in a musical debate to be allowed inside and cause a ruckus. The exact etymology of the tradition is unclear but the Christmas connection may have developed as a combination of “mari” being homophonous with the Virgin Mary, and “Mari Lwyd” literally translating as “grey mare.”
Edit to add: Found this video on the Mari Lwyd tradition as it’s performed today.
Originally posted on Tumblr on December 14, 2015
Region of origin: Sweden
Originally a dwarven agricultural spirit who would deliver gifts for good behavior and mete out punishments for bad to the people of the farmstead it protected, the tomte (or nisse) has since been conflated with Santa Claus-like figures and has been adapted as part of local Christmastime traditions. Often seen as a counterpart or compatriot to the Yule Goat.
Originally posted on Tumblr on December 13, 2015