Test Your St. Nick Sidekick IQ!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 | 0 comments »

By DeLane McDuffie

Being alone during the holidays can be a drag. Shoveling snow by yourself. Going stag to holiday parties. Even your WOWY SuperGym® Workout Buddy postponed because of last-minute holiday shopping. Whatever state of loneliness your may be in, it can't possibly be as lonely as flying around the world with nine reindeer that can't hold a decent conversation. In some countries, Santa isn't so lonely; he has a wingman, figuratively sitting shotgun in the sleigh. Match Santa's seasonal companions with their country or region of origin.
  1. Krampus – Austria. Apparently, Krampus got his festive seasons mixed up. Looking as if he came straight out of a Halloween nightmare, Krampus is one of the most unsightly characters in humanity's holiday history. He looks like a mix between the Cryptkeeper and a really, really, really, really mad goat. His deal with St. Nicholas? St. Nick rewards the good kids with toys, while Krampus shows the bad kids the penalty for being a year-round hardhead: having your toys confiscated, getting whipped with a switch (branch rod), getting shoved into a bag with other bad kids, and then getting chucked into a river. Who needs those bad-teen boot camps or military school when you have Krampus around?
  2. 2. Belsnickel – Germany. Northwestern Germany and some areas of Dutch Pennsylvania deal with an old guy named Belsnickel. When kids from these parts aren't rejoicing that they're not Austrian and have to answer to crazy ol' Krampus, they're being good so that fur-covered Belsnickel will leave a sock or shoe full of candy in their rooms. But if they act up, he won't hesitate to exchange those sweets for a lump of coal. In the early days, he would throw nuts and candy on the floor for children. And in the traditions of the piñata and children just being children, younglings would scamper to pick up the goods, which was a perfect opportunity for Belsnickel to strike them with his switch, scaring them straight.
  3. Le Père Fouettard – France. Le Père Fouettard (the whip father) is an Eastern French version of the Germanic Knecht Ruprecht (Farmhand Ruprecht) tradition. Similar to Belsnickel, Le Père Fouettard, wearing a black robe and a long beard, walks around with a whip or switch, beating disobedient kids, as St. Nicholas gives the good kids gifts that don't involve pain. Legend has it that Le Père Fouettard used to be a butcher who abducted three little rich boys. While robbing them, he ended up killing them. St. Nick bought the kids back to life, made Le Père Fouettard repent, and sentenced him to a lifetime of being St. Nick's flunky. It was either that or a bid in Sing Sing prison.
  4. Tió de Nadal – Spain. Tió de Nadal (Christmas log) doesn't exactly accompany Santa like the others do. Well, it can't. It's an inanimate object. Nonetheless, its interesting tradition is worth mentioning. Tió de Nadal, also known as "Caga tió," or "pooping log," hails from Catalonia in eastern Spain. On December 8th, the beginning of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, each family will take a short hollow log, prop it up on two sticks, and paint a smiling face on one end of it. For the next 2-1/2 weeks, they'll "feed" it with small bits of food and even cover it up with a blanket on a chilly night. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, they command the log to "poop" out gifts. To encourage expeditiousness, they sing songs to the log and thrash it furiously with sticks. Eventually, candy and other treats fall out. The family splits up the goodies—until garlic, an onion, or fish drops out, signaling the end to the year's festivities. And with that image fresh in your mind, Happy Holidays!