Eating mince pies, giving money to servants, sending gifts to friends in Late December or even putting sprigs of rosemary in roast beef were seen as suspicious actions that could be met with threats and reprisals…
Tag Archives: Bad Santas
“Bad Santas…” Advent Calendar Day 19 – When Puritans Banned All Mention of Christmas and the Contents of Today’s Post Were Censored As a Result…
Everyone knows the Christmas Cat,
He’s angry, huge and mean,
But nobody knows where he came from
Or where he will next be seen.
His eyes stared at you, open wide,
Both of them fierce ablaze,
It took a brave, brave man indeed
To steadily meet his gaze.
His whiskers were like razors,
His back was curved up high,
And those sharp claws on his hairy paws
Could make a grown man cry.
He curled and curved his great big tail,
He jumped and scratched and hissed,
Sometimes by the harbourside,
Sometimes in the mountain mist.
Vicious, large and evil,
Through freezing snows he came,
And in the houses everywhere
Folk trembled at his name.
A cruel ‘meow’ would let you know
Something evil was on its way,
And mice were never meat enough,
Men were his natural prey.
He feasted on the very poor
Who worked the Christmas through
But still had no new clothes to wear
No coat, no shirt, no shoe.
He’d steal their Christmas dinner,
He’d eat it with one chew,
And because their dinner was so small
He would then eat them too.
So mothers sat at spinning wheels,
They span their wool and thread
To make some clothes to give their child
So the Cat would not strike them dead.
But if a child received no new clothes
The threat was very real,
When the Cat made his Christmas call
They’d become his Christmas meal.
Candlelight on Christmas Eve,
The Cat peers through the pane,
Sees children clad in new costume,
Knows his efforts are in vain.
Perhaps a shirt, perhaps some socks,
A vest, a scarf, or shoe,
Whatever the child needed
To see the winter through.
The Cat would sigh, would hiss, would howl,
It would beat his mighty paws,
But there was no more he could do
For the child stayed out his claws.
I’m not sure he’s still around,
Nobody I know can say,
But if we all get Christmas clothes
That Cat will be kept at bay.
If you see a child who’s going cold,
Garments ragged and threadbare,
Help save him from the Christmas Cat,
Give him something new to wear.
This good deed will keep them safe
And give you a warm feeling too,
It will give you joy throughout your day
And a happy Christmas too.
“The Christmas Cat” is an English version of ‘Jólakötturinn’ by Jóhannes úr Kötlum and is taken from “Bad Santas and other Creepy Christmas Characters by Paul Hawkins, published by Simon & Schuster. The illustration is by Mel Four and is taken from the book.
The caganer (which tranlates as ‘the shitter’ is a unique and amusing tradition that began in Catalonia sometime around the eighteenth century but has appeared in parts of Spain, Portugal and Italy too. He is a figurine that appears in nativity scenes and is traditionally dressed in a white shirt, black trousers and a red hat. And as the name suggests, he is always shown squatting with his trousers around his ankles and a large, brown stool curled up behind him.
Usually the caganer is a small, subtle figure. He is rarely placed prominently in the scene but is almost always hidden away in a corner. Children will make a game of trying to spot him. However, in 2010 the Maremagnum shopping centre in Barcelona broke a Guinness World Record with their Christmas display of a 19ft-tall caganer. This meant that three storeys’ worth of shoppers could enjoy spectacular views of a giant man taking a dump as they went around buying their Christmas gifts.
These days the caganer does not have to be a peasant. In recent years, demand has risen for ‘celebrity defecators’ – models of popular figures of sport, politics, stage and screen all literally caught with their trousers down: politicians from Vladimir Putin to Fidel Castro to Barack Obama; sports stars from Lionel Messi to Rafa Nadal to Lewis Hamilton; musicians from Mick Jagger to Michael Jackson to Bruce Springsteen. Caganers exist of all of them engaged in defecating, even the Dalai Lama, Ghandi and Albert Einstein. Apparently Queen Elizabeth II is a particularly popular model of December defecator.
This is probably quite bemusing for the people depicted but caganer-makers see using someone’s image as a celebrity caganer as an honour and a positive acknowledgement of respect. After all, as Oscar Wilde very nearly said, ‘The only thing worse than being so famous that there is a figurine made of you defecating is not being so famous that there is a figurine made of you defecating.’
Bad Santas and Other Creepy Christmas Characters is available now from Simon & Schuster. The Illustratin above is by Melissa Four and is taken from the book.
Some Christmas cards are a little stranger and harder to fathom. The strangest without question are the Christmas cards of dead birds – a picture of a fully formed robin or wren lying on its back, presumably having died from the cold, with the words ‘May Yours Be a Joyful Christmas’ or ‘A Loving Christmas Greeting’ on the back. John Grossman, who chronicles Christmas cards in his wonderful book Christmas Curiosities, guesses that it might have been a combination of eliciting sympathy and sentimental feelings from the receiver and a stark reminder of those less fortunate at Christmastime, but frankly a dead bird remains a bizarre thing to put on a #Christmas Card.
Bad Santas and Other Creepy Christmas Characters is available now from Simon & Schuster.
In 1966 a business association in the Swedish town of Gävle started a tradition of building a gigantic Yule Goat and displaying it in the town to promote tourism. Unfortunately for them, that same year some local residents started a tradition of setting fire to the gigantic Yule Goat at the earliest possible opportunity!
Now every year a cat-and-mouse game is played between the constructors and local youths where the builders of the goat try technique after technique to keep it standing and local youths find ways to destroy it – Yule Goats now appear elsewhere in Sweden too and often meet similar fates. In Gävle the goat goes up at the beginning of December and usually it is burned down around Lucy’s Night, Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. In 1999 it was burned down within two hours of construction. It does not always get burned down though – it has also been run over, stolen and thrown in a river. Perhaps the best story is the year that security guards were hired to give the goat 24-hour protection. All went well until one night it was freezing cold and the guards nipped into a nearby restaurant to momentarily warm themselves with a shot of a spirit. They walked in and ordered their drinks. No sooner had they walked to the window and raised the glass to their lips when they glanced outside and saw the goat was already ablaze . . .
Bad Santas and Other Creepy Christmas Characters by Paul Hawkins is published by Simon & Schuster and available now.. The image is taken from here.
I’m pleased to say my article about Christmas folklore is on 34 of today’s Sunday Express. You can also read it here:
There’s also a write-up of the book in today’s Sunday Herald:
and the book was recommended in Thursday’s Metro:
In Norway and Sweden 13 December is St Lucia’s Day. St Lucia is represented as a beautiful young woman and the day is marked by a procession. A local girl is selected to play the saint. She dresses in white with a red sash and wears a crown of candles on her head. She will parade through the town followed by a series of similarly white-clad girls, each clutching one candle and singing songs dedicated to the saint.
Although St Lucia (or St Lucy) is indeed a historical saint, this is actually a relatively recent celebration which began in Sweden in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. But Norway actually celebrated a Lucia (or Lussi) centuries earlier, albeit in a very different form. For the night before 13 December was the Lussinatta or Lucy Night. This was the night when evil spirits and demons rose up to wander the Earth.
In these wanderings, Lussi was a hideously evil she-demon with magical powers. She was said to ride through the skies on a broomstick accompanied by demons, evil spirits and trolls, spreading mayhem and chaos wherever she went. Children needed to be good and the adults needed to ward off evil by protecting their homes with the sign of the cross. Otherwise Lussi would make her move – destroying property, crops or livestock, and kidnapping or killing misbehaving children.
“Bad Santas and Other Creepy Christmas Characters” by Paul Hawkins is available now and published by Simon & Schuster. I’m not really sure where the picture comes from and feel slightly guilty about purloining it but it seemed rather good for what I wanted…