Playlist: To Heck with Ole Santa Claus
One thing I really love about the holiday season is the punishment.
Been naughty? The Elf on the Shelf is going to tell Santa, and that means you’re only getting a lump of coal in your stocking. Fail to make a human sacrifice? Saturn is probably going to fuck with your crops. Slack on your spinning? Frau Perchta is going to gut you like a fish.
In this, the season of giving, I thought it was time we shared our favorite holiday bad boys. The people who do Santa’s dirty work and punish kids who don’t wash behind their ears or whatever. Whose team are you on?
The Elf on the Shelf
Plenty of people have pointed out the surveillance state paranoia therapy-inducing hot mess that is this charming marketing ploy. Like I can’t prove that Pinterest was an early investor on this thing, but I think we all know it. In my opinion, this doll stands for the worst kind of evil: a passive witness to the tyranny of parents, a model for snitch behavior to children, a dispassionate judge and jury. And in a bizarre karmic twist, parents are tortured by this doll. Coming up with elaborate scenes to stage for the elf, writing down the details of the “elf’s” report, supervising the kids even more than usual… foul business.
The hairy goat man, draped in chains, coming with switches for bad children (and often, buxom ladies). Internet people are very enamored of this holiday punisher, and honestly, I get it; from his cloven hooves to his backpack full of tots, he’s a wonderful anti-Christmas figure. And obviously, yes, I am here for the sexual subtext.
Did I only include him so I could screech “CHEER OR FEAR” into the void? Maybe! He’s lesser-known, possibly because he seems a little too human to be coming to people’s houses at night to whip their children. Yikes.
The Christmas witch is probably the most outwardly murderous of all the holiday baddies. She is said to disembowel naughty kids who were slacking on their child labor.
Okay, so Saturn isn’t really The Villain of Saturnalia; he’s just a god who expects his due (corpses). So really he’s more of The Drama.
Not a typo. This is the OG villain of Christmas. Jesus showed up to give this guy the business. I love that he shows up in carols. I love when people insist on jamming him into Christmas plays, just to make the stakes a little more real for the wee baby Jesus.
This Icelandic sometimes-giantess is a weird figure that appears as a stooped beggar. For some reason, she is able to sense when children are naughty, so she comes down from her mountain hideaway – with her third husband – to beg mothers for their misbehaving children. She cooks them into a stew, which is a nice, seasonal meal. Her appetite is said to be bottomless, and her supply of bad children never-ending.
This extremely metal hobby horse figure is a staple of wassailing. The very real horse skull on a stick with a while veil possibly symbolized death riding in. She doesn’t directly punish, but instead serves as a very subtle, tasteful reminder of what might happen if a home refuses to admit the wassailers for too long.
Every year, the tide of our collective excitement for the holiday season gets drowned out by the flood of advertisements. Every day gets a new sale theme.