“Christmas is the best time for ghost stories”. – Ambrose Spellman
A telling quote from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina holiday special “A Midwinter’s Tale”
Folklore & Scary stories have been linked to the otherwise joyful holiday from the beginning. In particular, there are a handful of terrifying legends that come along with Christmas.
Krampus is probably the most popular Anti Christmas figure, According to legend, Krampus (whose name comes from the German word for “claw”) is a half goat-half demon with cloven hooves and a long tongue who would visit the houses of naughty children. While there he would beat them with birch branches or a whip before taking them back to his lair to live forever. While there he would beat them and torture them some more. If that doesn’t put you in the holiday spirit I don’t know what will! Along with Krampus, other notable Horrifying Icons feature: Belsnickel (hilariously cited on The Office by Dwight), Dating back to the 1800s Belsnickel is a cantankerous old man who would deliver cakes, candies and nuts to the good children and whip the bad children with a switch on Christmas Eve.
Fun fact: in later years the legend had her being the mother of the Yule Lads, mischievous creatures who play pranks on the townspeople.
One of the other terrifying legends is Grýla, who finally makes her screen debut in the aforementioned “A Midwinter’s Tale!” One of Iceland’s most renowned figures associated with Christmas made her first appearance in ancient Pagan times. An especially terrifying figure, Grýla is a giant troll with hooves for feet and sports an impressive thirteen tails. This lady-troll is in a perpetual bad mood due to her insatiable hunger…for children. Each Christmas, Grýla comes down from her mountain dwelling to hunt for bad children. She places them in a sack and drags them back to her cave where she boils them alive for her favorite stew. Grýlas wrath is not reserved solely for human children, but she has been through three husbands already, two of which she killed because they bored her.
In “A Midwinter’s Tale,” the unseen Yule Lads invade the Spellman home and the family summons Grýla to collect them and bring them back to her home. Grýla is presented as a very dangerous witch, but contrary to the legend that “Chilling Adventures” pulls from, the series’ take on Grýla is that she protects children rather than viciously consumes them.
One of the episode’s other storylines sees Krampus kidnap Susie Putnam with the intention of turning her into a wax statue, and the episode culminates with the Spellmans once again summoning Grýla for help. Grýla, whose main purpose within the show’s own unique mythology is to protect children, kills Krampus, freeing Susie and saving the day.