With Christmas just around the corner, memories of holiday festivities tend to echo in our minds; good times with friends and family, sumptuous food, and all those parties and gifts. Christmas wasn’t always this much fun…
Welcome to the 4th and last blog in our “Childhood Fears” blog series. I’m supposed to write all about the horrors of Christmas. At first, I thought that would be quite a challenge, but I was wrong.
A little research turned up legend after legend of “Anti-Claus” monsters, demons, witches, and cannibals terrorizing Europe over the past centuries. Various cultures used these stories to achieve good behavior and obedience in their children during the Christmas season. The message was simple; behave properly or fall victim to these diabolical fiends.
So much for Santa’s naughty and nice lists…
Each one ran the same basic theme. Children heard numerous tales of murder, torture, beatings, and being roasted and eaten. These horror stories built unimaginable terror and as a result, the child would never misbehave or disobey for fear of becoming a victim of these horrible monsters.
Our “lump of coal in the stocking” sounds ridiculous in comparison…
Over several hundred years, parents and society directed legends of torture and death directly at children. Check these out:
• Black Peter aka Zwarte Piet – a formidable Dutch monster with horns. He enjoyed kidnapping and beating unruly children.
• Knech Rupecht aka Ru Klaus – a wild dirty foundling from the Black Forest. He bagged ill-behaved children and drowned them.
• Pere Fouettard – a French butcher who enjoyed capturing, butchering, and eating small children. Known to eat three or more at a time.
• Jólakötturinn aka Yule Cat – the huge Icelandic cat that caught and consumed the lazy and disobedient.
• Belssnickel – a German enforcer who beat and murdered the misbehaved.
• Hans Trapp – French Satan worshiper who abused, murdered and ate children.
• Gryla – mother of the Yules Lads – she liked to kidnap, cook and eat children.
• Frau Perchta – a very ugly Austrian witch. She murdered and ripped out the internal organs of badly behaved children, replacing the organs with garbage.
We celebrate a Christmas based on pagan ceremonies, legends, religious beliefs, and commercial pursuit. The concept of being good or bad, and the resulting consequences, seems to have fallen by the wayside.
No longer do children fear repercussion from being unruly or disobedient. Behaving and obeying doesn’t enter into the picture. Demons or witches roaming about to butcher, or eat them don’t exist.
I have to wonder – have we won or lost the battle that ensures our children grow up to be honest and conscientious adults? Maybe we need to take a closer look. These are our current behavior models based on our current Christmas “legends”:
• Santa Claus – the persona originated in 1822 by Clement Moore, today’s visuals are accredited to Coca Cola marketing. Lives at the North Pole, keep a list of both good and bad children, and presents gifts to the good ones (that’s the theory).
• St. Nicholas – a Catholic saint, known throughout Europe for his kindness and attention to children. His legend spans over 1800 years. He gives candy and sweets to well -behaved children.
• Father Christmas – the UK personification of Santa Claus.
• Kris Kringle – kindly Santa from “Miracle on 34th Street”. Along with the usual Santa gift giving, he can perform miracles.
• Ralphie – The boy from the “The Christmas Story”. He tried to be good so Santa would bring him the “official Red Ryder carbine-action-two-hundred-shot range model air rifle”. He succeeded.
• Scrooge – from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. In the story, three ghosts visit this grumpy old man and finally scare him into the “Christmas Spirit”. He then gives food, and gifts to an underprivileged family.
• Buddy the Elf – a misplaced over-sized elf infected with the Christmas spirit.
• Clarence – the angel from “It’s a Wonderful Life” prevents a suicide with his wisdom.
If parents felt child behavior important enough, to threaten their children with the most horrendous forms of torture and death, it must have worked for them. They kept it going for hundreds of years. The theme was always the same – scare the hell out of them so they do the right thing? I think those children not only appreciated, but treasured, any treats they received during the holidays.
Our society indoctrinates our children with unrealistic models of happily-ever-after Christmas scenarios. Is this a good thing?
I don’t know…maybe?… maybe not?
I must admit I believe a touch of fear is good for a child. The instinct for danger and trepidation for unknown threats is important for real survival.
We can all agree, being terrified of that unseen horror, makes being alive much more interesting…
JG Faherty wrote a gruesome Christmas story in his novella “Winterwood” and used these nasty demons and witches to relate a chilling tale. It will give you a new outlook on the Christmas holidays.
In closing this series of October blogs, all of us, JG Faherty, J.H.Moncrieff, L.L. Soares, G. Daniel Gunn, and myself, Christine Hayton, would all like to thank all our fans, supporters, and followers. We are all very proud to be part of the “CHILDHOOD FEARS” Anthology, published by Samhain Publishing Ltd.
We THANK YOU in advance. Should you decide to provide an honest review of the Anthology, “CHILDHOOD FEARS” , or any of the individual stories included in it, we very much appreciate your time and effort.
Please find purchasing information on Amazon and other book-seller sites. The Amazon link is HERE.
JG Faherty shocks the Christmas cheer out of us with his tale of Yule fork-lore. Santa never did the holidays like this. JG is a master at horror and has numerous works to his credit including “HELLRIDER”, “THE CURE”, and “CARNIVAL OF FEAR” to name a very few on a long and successful list.
No one in Anders Bach’s family believed his old tales of Winterwood, a place where Krampus and his Wild Hunt rule a frozen land and where bad children don’t get coal for Christmas, they get baked into pies or forced into slavery. But now the Yule Lads have kidnapped Anders’s grandsons, and he has to rescue them before they’re lost forever. Anders and his daughter must cross the divide between worlds and enter Winterwood, where evil holds sway and even the reindeer have a taste for human flesh. By the time the sun rises, they’ll learn the awful truth about Winterwood: there is no escape without sacrifice.
“NIGHTMARE IN GREASEPAINT”
L.L. Soares and G.Daniel Gunn cater to those of us whohave been terrorized by clowns. Not so funny are they?
Will Pallasso has brought his wife and young son, Billy, back to his childhood home to settle his late mother’s affairs…and remove all traces of his haunted past. But now hideous memories are coming back to Will, and Billy has started suffering from night terrors. Returning to this house was a big mistake. Some memories should not be disturbed, and some nightmares will not stay buried forever.
Especially nightmares that wear greasepaint spattered with blood.
“THE BEAR WHO WOULDN’T LEAVE”
J.H. Moncrieff gives our memories a jolt with one scary teddy bear. This one you won’t forget. Our story teller is a new fiction author, but brings years of journalist experience to her craft.
Still grieving the untimely death of his dad, ten-year-old Josh Leary is reluctant to accept a well-worn stuffed teddy bear from his new stepfather. He soon learns he was right to be wary. Edgar is no ordinary toy…and he doesn’t like being rejected.
When Josh banishes him to the closet, terrible things begin to happen. Desperate to be rid of the bear, Josh engages the help of a friend. As the boys’ efforts rebound on them with horrifying results, Josh is forced to accept the truth—Edgar will always get even.
Christine Hayton reminds us of those cold clear nights in the fall when tall corn and roaming scarecrows made us hide inside. Her first shot at horror, this former accountant turned fiction writer, delights us with a tale set in the same place where she grew up.
Early one morning in the fall of 1964, Robert searched for his missing six-year-old daughter, Cathy. He found her asleep in a nearby cornfield, covered in blood and holding a small axe. A few feet away lay the mutilated body of her classmate Emily.
Assumed guilty of murder, Cathy lived in a hospital for insane children. She always gave the same account of what happened. She talked of murderous scarecrows that roamed the cornfield on moonlit nights. Her doctors considered her delusional. The police, her neighbors, and the press thought she was dangerous. And so she remained incarcerated. No one believed her. That was a mistake.