It’s that time of year again when listening to the radio becomes impossible and making cookies becomes a competition among the closest family members. So instead of thinking about gifts and how to avoid your awkward cousins, let’s look at some more holiday ghouls that aren’t Krampus.
What says Christmas like a zombie horse trying to get into your house and cause mayhem? In South Wales, there is a wassailing folk tale of “The Gray Mare” that goes door to door challenging the owners to let them in via song. If the owners can’t best the Mare in song they must let Mari Lwyd in to cause a ruckus within the home.
The Mari Lwyd is still celebrated today and is usually created from a horse skull attached to the end of the stick and covered with a white sheet. But unless you want to insight a Christmas song battle with your neighbors, you should just leave the horse skull at home.
These Greek goblins developed in Anatolian folklore and can be found mentioned in Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian, and Turkish legends. They are said to live underground where they spend most of their time sawing at the world tree in hopes of collapsing the Earth. The myth has many facets, but the overall legend says right as they are about to finish sawing Christmas comes and they are free to roam around above ground terrorizing. Once they return underground they see the world tree had healed itself and they begin again.
During the 12 days of Christmas, these goblins run amuck in the mortal world and any child born during the 12 days is at risk of transforming into a Kallikantzaros. In Serbia, the 12 days of Christmas were thought to be the unbaptized days thus being a time when evil forces would become more active.
Have your kids been less than nice this year? Is the threat of coal or the wandering eyes of an elf on said shelf not working anymore? Then may I suggest you take a page from Japanese folklore and summon up a Namahage? While in Japan these ogre-like creatures usually come out on New Year’s Eve, they can also be seen at Christmas time.
These creatures are said to be demons brought by Emperor Wu of Han from China to Japan in 87 BC. They are used to scare children into obeying their parents by roaming around at night entering homes looking for “cry babies” and other disobedient children. These days those who dress as the Namahage take requests from parents for specific lessons. When they arrive dressed in their horrible masks they repeat these lessons to the children in hopes of scaring them into behaving for the new year.