The Dark Side of Christmas Around the World

Every year, many countries and cultures around the world have their own unique traditions and figures associated with the holiday season. These range from the more widely known Santa Claus to some lesser-known characters that may surprise you. Let’s take a look at some of these fascinating figures from around the world!

The Yule Lads

The Yule Lads are 13 mischievous Icelandic trolls who live in the mountains and visit children during the 13 days leading up to Christmas. Each of them has a unique name and personality trait. For instance, Spoon-Licker is known for stealing spoons and Door-Slammer loves slamming doors. On each night of their visit, they leave presents or rotten potatoes for children depending on whether they’ve been good or naughty.

Tió de Nadal

Tió de Nadal is a figure from Catalonia, Spain who is essentially a log dressed up in clothes with a face painted on it. During Christmas Eve dinner, children are given pieces of tió which they hit with sticks while singing songs about it defecating presents such as oranges, nuts, and small toys.

Nuuttipukki & Mari Lwyd

In Finland and Wales respectively, Nuuttipukki (or Saint Nicholas) is accompanied by his trusty horse companion Mari Lwyd (which means “gray mare” in Welsh). Together they travel door-to-door singing traditional songs asking for treats before moving on to other homes. It’s believed that if they fail to receive any treats then bad luck will befall the home in question!

Zwarte Piet (Black Pete)

Originating in Netherlands, Zwarte Piet (also known as Black Pete) is an assistant to Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas). He wears colorful Renaissance clothing and has blackface makeup, however, this character has recently come under fire for being offensive due to its depiction of racial stereotypes. As such, many people have begun protesting against him or calling for his reimagining as something else altogether.


Krampus is a half-goat half-demon figure who originates from Alpine folklore. His mission is to punish naughty children by kidnapping them and taking them away in his sack! Traditions vary across different countries but generally involve Krampus appearing alongside Saint Nicholas during the holidays—which can definitely be intimidating for kids!


As you can see, there are plenty of interesting figures associated with Christmas from all over the world! From Iceland’s Yule Lads to Spain’s Tió de Nadal, Wales’ Mari Lwyd and Finland’s Nuuttipukki, not forgetting Netherlands’ Zwarte Piet and Austria’s Krampus, each one adds something special to our holiday celebrations every year. Whether you’re familiar with them already or just learning about them now, it’s definitely worth exploring different cultures to find out what traditions they have!


  1. I lived in the Netherlands several years ago, and Zwarte Piet is not black faced due to any type of racial stereotype. His face is black due to the soot in fireplaces-he is dirty-it has nothing to do with race. What a bunch of nonsense! Let’s stir up trouble and cause racism where there never was any. What is wrong with people? Don’t try and contradict me either as I actually lived there and I also speak some Dutch. I never, ever heard he was an actual black guy-only a guy who had soot on his face from going in many chimneys.


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