Season’s Beatings: the Medieval Naughty List

There is a war on Christmas…beatings. That’s right. We are losing the true Christmas spirit of violence set forth by our ancestors. If history has taught us anything, it is that the best way to control our children is to terrify them with stories of horrific monsters and then beat them soundly. And what better time to do this than on Christmas?

I must admit, I too have been lax in administrating the appropriate amount of pain and horror to my children. And look at the results…

This one runs around with guns:


This one has adopted the ninja lifestyle:


And this one has taken to piracy:


Clearly, I have been remiss. Fortunately, I have compiled a list of traditions that go back to the Middle Ages or earlier that will help put the fear back in the Christmas season.

    1. Gruss_vom_KrampusKrampus–This Austrian/Bavarian horned devil is the yin to St. Nicholas’s yang. He shows up the night of December 5th to beat naughty children with switches, and then drag them down to the underworld. The next morning children who haven’t been dragged down to hell will find that St. Nicholas has left them a nice treat in their shoe. Krampus’s roots go back to the Pre-Christian era, but he didn’t become St. Nicholas’s henchman until the 17th century. If you’d like to meet Krampus and commend him on his no-nonsense attitude towards discipline, consider attending a Krampuslauf as seen in the following video:


    2. Holda,_the_gütige_Beschüzerin_by_F._W._HeineFrau Perchta–This white-robed German goddess of spinning sometimes appears as a beautiful woman and other times an old hag. She may or may not have one giant foot. Regardless of appearance, one thing is certain–you don’t want to piss her off. She shows up during the twelve days of Christmas offering silver coins to hard-working children and servants. The lazy don’t fare quite so well. Frau Perchta likes to slit the bellies of layabouts and then stuff them full of straw and stone. Good incentive to keep up with your chores!
    3. Cranach_Massacre_of_the_Innocents_(detail)Holy Innocents’ Day–In medieval England, they didn’t need a horrifying creature to whip their children into shape. They did it themselves…for religious reasons, of course. Remember the story of Herod? He executed all the young male children near Bethleham after the Magi announced the birth of a newborn king of the Jews. To commemorate this horrible massacre, parents took it upon themselves to whip their children as a form of reenactment on December 28th each year.

  1. hollySt. Stephan’s Day/ Gwyl San Steffan–You might know this day as Boxing Day. If you prefer your holiday violence to lean towards the misogynistic, then the medieval Welsh tradition of holming or holly-beating is for you. Young men and boys would take holly branches and beat the bare arms or legs of female servants until they bled.
  2. grumpy_cat_christmas_by_michu0022-d6z6lj6Yule Cat–Yule Cat might not be as old as the rest on this list. At least, nobody wrote about him until the 18th century. Still, I felt he deserved a mention. Yule Cat comes to us from Icelandic culture and is the original Grumpy Cat. Traditionally, good girls and boys who worked hard and got all their work done received a new article of clothing before Christmas Eve. Those who didn’t get new clothes were not only unfashionable, but also in danger of the Yule Cat. If he saw you walking around in last years duds, he would devour you, or at the very least your Christmas meal, which is nearly as bad.

This is just a small list of the many horrifying creatures and traditions of Christmas’ past. I hope it has inspired you to fight the war on Christmas beatings. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy a whip…and a cat.


26 thoughts on “Season’s Beatings: the Medieval Naughty List

  1. In Greece we have the Kallikanzaroi, malevolent goblins who surface from their underground dwelling at Christmas to bring trouble to humans! And the minions are adorable as always, btw, in spite of their violent leanings!

    1. I’m going to have to look that up. I’ll add them to next year’s list! And thanks for the comment on the kids. Almost too cute to beat…

  2. I felt so remiss reading this article, wondering how things may have been different had i properly beaten you??? But alas, it comes down to you just didn’t need it, good girl you are;)

  3. When I was a youngster I had a teacher who was married to a man from the Netherlands. She took us to the Christmas festivity that was organised for Dutch kids. St Nicholas was there to give out gifts to good kids, and he had a helper called Black Peter who had a whip and was there to punish bad kids. As we lined up for our candy, Black Peter came along the line brandishing his whip and saying, “Who’s been naughty?”
    I just loved it. Most exciting Christmas of my life. And no, it had no lasting effect on me. I’m not into flagellation.

  4. “. They did it themselves…for religious regions, ”

    You meant reasons.

    Krampus is new monster for me.

    I love the pictures of your cute kids. 🙂

    The tradition of “innocent day” in which children were beaten to commemorate the massacre and the boxer day one were both weird and cruel.

    Thanks for sharing the dark side of Christmas 🙂

    Love and light <3

    Anand 🙂

    1. Great catch on the typo! I’ll fix that now. I agree with you re; innocents’ day. Definitely both weird and cruel. Thanks for the kind words about my kids 🙂

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