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Home Features Beware Der Belsnickel!

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Like Krampus, the Belsnickel is another dastardly Yuletide figure. But unlike Krampus, an encounter with Der Belsnickel isn’t fatal. With his origins in southwestern Germany, the Belsnickel made his way over to Pennsylvania Dutch communities over two centuries ago, but his tale has since spread.

The Belsnickel wears fur from head to toe and sometimes he wears a mask. He carries a switch of sticks in one hand for whipping bad children, and on his back is a sack full of sweets.

The Belsnickel typically shows up a week or two before Christmas in order to check on the behavior of the little ones. The Belsnickel approaches a house and knocks on the window with his switch of sticks. The children are expected to fall in line in front of him. They may be asked to sing a song or answer questions asked of them. If they do well, they are given candy. If they misbehave… whack! In some cases, the candy is a test. The Belsnickel might toss some candy on the floor. If a kid jumps for the sweets before it’s offered to him… whack! The extremely naughty are brought outside to a tree and given a proper beating.

Where Krampus carts off the naughty kids and devours them, the Belsnickel offers a chance at redemption before Christmas. The whipped children then have a couple of weeks to fly right so Santa will bring them toys on Christmas Day.

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