Jólakötturinn, or the Yule Cat, is an Icelandic holiday monster. He is a giant cat who is said to eat children who have not finished their autumn wool-working chores, thereby failing to have been rewarded with new clothes by Christmas Eve.
“His whiskers, sharp as bristles,
His back arched up high,
And the claws of his hairy paws
Were a terrible sight.”
—Jóhannes úr Kötlum, “Jólakötturinn” (Vignir Jónsson, trans.)
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The Krampus is a yuletide monster of Alpine lore. He is one of the helpers of St. Nicholas, seeking out naughty children on Krampusnacht, the eve of St. Nicholas’ Day (December 6). He acts as the anti-St. Nick, frightening, and sometimes punishing—or even abducting—badly behaved children.
The Krampus, whose name likely derives from krampen, the Old High German word for claw, is of mostly humanoid form, though exceptionally furry, similar to a satyr. He has large, pointy ears, a bull’s tail, and big goaty horns. The Krampus has one normal foot and one cloven hoof, but his most distinguishing characteristic may be his huge red tongue, which perpetually lolls out of his mouth. Krampus will often carry a large sack in which to haul away bad children, though sometimes a washtub, basket or other conveyance is used. Along with a sack, his accoutrements often include chains, bells, and a ruten (a birch-twig switch) or whip. Continue reading →