It’s the most wonderful time of the year! All over the world, people are gearing up to celebrate and pass around gifts. Winter holiday traditions date back to the dawn of civilisation – and the stories told go hand in hand with the celebrations.
If you’re looking for some alternative stories to tell your friends and family over the Christmas break, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some of our favourite alternative festive tales from far away and closer to home.
The Krampus story originated in the home of Santa himself – the German-speaking regions of Europe. But the Krampus is everything Santa Claus isn’t. Where jolly old Saint Nicholas rewards good children with gifts, Krampus delivers punishment to those who are bad. And he’s utterly terrifying.
Krampus is depicted as a goat-like demon, with hoofed feet and horns, black fur, a long tongue and fangs. In older texts, the story goes that Santa Claus deals only with good children and Krampus with bad. In those old tales, Krampus would appear before the naughty children and take them away in a sack – sometimes to eat, sometimes to drag straight to hell…
See? Utterly terrifying! In modern times, the Krampus serves more as a beloved pantomime character, whose job is delivering coal to naughty children. Nowhere near as terrifying – just a gentle reminder to be good.
This is quite a story – Jólakötturinn is a giant, demonic cat that stalks the snowy countryside plains of Iceland. Known internationally as the Yule Cat, legend has it that the beast skulks in the snow and the darkness, waiting to pounce.
But what is the giant cat’s prey? Well, Jólakötturinn eats anybody who hasn’t been gifted new clothes before Christmas Eve. So if you have any Icelandic friends, make sure they get a new garment before December 24th!
Like most Christmas folk stories, the Yule Cat serves as a motivator – in this instance, to encourage community giving. Nobody knows where the story originated, but it’s been traced back to the 19th century.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
It might only have been around since 1993, but the Nightmare Before Christmas is the modern day poster child for alternative Christmas stories. It tells the tale of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King and patron saint of Halloween in his hometown – Halloween Town.
Growing weary of Halloween, Jack takes a walk through a wood and discovers a portal to a mystical new place: Christmas Town. There, he learns the magic of Christmas and becomes obsessed with making it his own, drowning out the humdrum that Halloween has become.
In the process, he almost ruins everything: Christmas, Halloween and himself. Can he turn it around in time and save Christmas? If you haven’t seen it already, it’s becoming something of a classic, and will make an excellent addition to your regular Christmas viewing.
The Little Girl and the Winter Whirlwinds
This beautiful tale from Bulgaria tells the story of the Winter Witch, a wicked and spiteful witch who seeks to turn every season into winter. The villagers need a saviour – and a little orphaned girl, full of spirit and love for her fellow villagers, takes up the quest.
The villagers give her all their warmest clothes and she sets off to face the Whirlwinds – children of the Winter Witch. With help from the animals of the forest, the little girl finds her way to father Christmas – the only one who can bring back the seasons. You can read the full story here.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Wishing you all a merry (Krampus-free!) Christmas and a happy new year, from everybody at Kwintessential!
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