Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Monday, December 5, 2011
Saint Nicholas was said to have several companions who helped him with various tasks on Christmas, mostly involving giving out gifts.
Belsnickel is a man wearing fur which covers his entire body, and he sometimes wears a mask with a long tongue. He is a rather scary creature who visits children and delivers socks or shoes full of candy, but if the children were not good, they will find coal and/or switches in their stockings instead.
Krampus- According to legend, Krampus accompanies St. Nicholas during the Christmas season, warning and punishing bad children, in contrast to St. Nicholas, who gives gifts to good children.
The tasks of the Zwarte Pieten are mostly to amuse children, and to scatter pepernoten and candies for those who come to meet the saint as he visits stores, schools, and other places. Zwarte Pieten are often portrayed as mischievous but rarely mean-spirited characters.
Le Père Fouettard-
An Inn Keeper captures three boys who appear to be wealthy and on their way to enroll in a religious boarding school. Along with his wife, he kills the children in order to rob them. One gruesome version tells that they drug the children, slit their throats, cut them into pieces, and stew them in a barrel. St. Nicholas discovers the crime and resurrects the children. After this, Le Père Fouettard repents and becomes St. Nick's partner. A slightly altered version of this story claims that St. Nicholas forced Le Père Fouettard to become his assistant as a punishment for his crimes.
Knect Ruprecht-Tradition holds that he appears in homes on St. Nicholas day (December 6), and is a man with a long beard, wearing fur or covered in pea-straw. Knecht Ruprecht sometimes carries a long staff and a bag of ashes, and wears little bells on his clothes.Sometimes he rides on a white horse, and sometimes he is accompanied by fairies or men with blackened faces dressed as old women.
According to tradition, Knecht Ruprecht asks children whether they can pray. If they can, they receive apples, nuts, and gingerbread. If they cannot, he beats the children with his bag of ashes.