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Christmas is usually a joyous time of year; a winter wonderland where families celebrate, children play in the snow, and everyone exchanges gifts. It’s a very wholesome experience with laughs and smiles all around. Unfortunately, it’s not all snowflakes and presents for all; there are very sinister spirits that come out this time of year.

Gryla is an Icelandic ogress who leaves the mountains around Christmas to prey on naughty children, cooking them in a stew. She is the mother of the Yule Lads, 13 mischievous and sometimes murderous trolls who are now depicted as good creatures of reward in recent tales. In traditional Icelandic folklore, these trolls steal, cause trouble, and scare children into behaving. Gryla and the Yule Lads live in the Dimmuborgir lava fields with the Yule Cat and Gryla’s third husband, Leppalúði.

In Bavarian and Austrian folklore, Frau Perchta is said to roam the countryside at night during the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany. She would enter homes and would know whether the children of the house had behaved and worked hard all year, especially concerned if girls had spun all of their flax and wool. If the children did, she would leave a silver coin in their shoe. If the children were bad, or if they had eaten anything other than the traditional meal of fish and gruel, she would cut their stomachs open, remove their guts, and stuff them with straw and pebbles.

In Alsace and Lorraine, parents warn their children that Hans Trapp is coming. Hans Trapp was a cruel and heartless man of power living in Alsace. He worshipped Satan and used black magic and occult rituals to obtain his power and wealth. Charged with sacrilege and excommunicated by the Pope when the Catholic Church discovered his dark ways, he was forced into exile and built a shack on the mountain of Geisberg. He soon lost his mind and spent his days of solitude fantasizing of his revenge. In his maddened state, he began to dream of eating human flesh. He would disguise himself as a scarecrow, scouring the countryside, waiting for a potential victim. One day, after finding and murdering a boy, he dragged the victim back to his shack to feast on. God struck him down with a bolt of lightning to put an end to his evil. It is said that Hans Trapp stills comes out every Christmas in his scarecrow attire, going house to house, to scare children into good behavior.

This Christmas Eve, when you’re laying in bed anxiously awaiting for morning, just hope that it’s old Saint Nick making the thuds on your roof or causing the ornaments to jingle on the tree. Merry Christmas, goys!