- Holidays and Celebrations
Real Christmas Mysteries
The 'spirit' of Christmas
"...Christmas all hail! - without the wild storm,
Within, good fires, good fare, shall keep us warm:
And the huge log, within chimney blazing bright,
Make joyous sparkle through the merry night;
While mysterious tales are told around the hearth,
Where mingle sacred thoughts with those of earth.."
(Excerpt from "Recollections of old Christmas".)
Love and joy are two of the main themes associated with the festive season.
However, is there another side to this spiritual and happy occasion? For example is there a dark side to Christmas that people have experienced?
Is St. Nicholas/Santa Claus Buried In Ireland?
Saint Nicholas, who inspired the Father Christmas legend, may well be buried in Ireland.
It’s believed that his remains were brought back to Ireland by some Crusaders about 800 years ago. The location of the grave is thought to be at Jerpoint Abbey in County Kilkenny, where a large stone slab marks the site.
St Nicholas of Myra lived during the 4th century. His reputation grew when it was discovered that he anonymously left gifts for poor people. He was eventually canonised and finally became a ‘saint’ a number of years later. It’s thought that St. Nicholas died in the year 346 AD.
St Nicholas was the Bishop of Lycia – now the country of Turkey.
After his death he was buried in a church in Myra. The site was visited by many pilgrims and historians claim that early crusaders removed Saint Nicholas’s remains back to Ireland.
The family responsible for this were called De Frainet. They settled in Ireland and Nicholas de Frainet founded a Cistercian Abbey at Jerpoint in about 1200. He then had the remains of St. Nicholas placed in a tomb within the abbey.
There is still a profound mystery surrounding the family’s reasons for bringing St. Nicholas back to Ireland with them. Was there a specific or spiritual reason for doing so? As yet these questions remain an enigma.
An Evil Santa Claus?
We are all familiar with the happy and kind Father Christmas whose cherubic face is plastered everywhere in the run up to Christmas.
Generally this icon gives a feeling of warmth and friendliness. However, there are legends that give a very different slant on Father Christmas. In folklore there is thought to have been a malicious Santa and his evil helpers.
The idea of a wicked Santa may just come from the same kind of traditions we have today - children know that they should behave in order to be rewarded with presents. The folklore tales are possibly just the same kind of thing only taken to an extreme.
Jouluppukki - the Yule Goat
This is a supernatural entity from the folklore of Finland and it didn't bring gifts - it demanded them!
It was believed that Jouluppukki resembled an ugly gnome and would travel around on the back of a hideous beast.
He would begin his journey at the north, demanding gifts from the people. It wasn’t wise to refuse him either. If he was slighted he would ensure that bad luck and havoc would strike the household.
Related to this from the folklore of Iceland comes the Yule Lads. There were 13 in the family who were called Jolasveinair.
Each of the lads had a distinct personality but one trait they shared was - if they didn’t like the gift offered to them by a family they would devour their children!
It’s thought by some that the Yule Lads have become transformed into a Santa-like figure or that they have been transformed into Santa's cute little elves.
In other traditions the elves were always thought to be bad rather than good. In some folklore legends they are described as having a stick or rod with which they would beat children who misbehaved.
In addition they also carried a small sack over one shoulder. This sack would be used to kidnap children who hadn’t behaved.
These malignant Santa 'aids' have been called several names depending on culture or country.
The names include:
- Knecht Ruprecht/Servent Ruprecht
- and also Krampus.
In some traditions young men would dress up as these festive entities in the weeks leading up to Christmas in order to scare people - almost like a Christmas equivalent of Halloween.
In Flanders and the Netherlands this evil companion to Santa goes by the name of Zwarte Piet and also carries a stick to beat misbehaving children.
Krampus -mentioned previously - is also referred to not only as a helper to Santa, but as a demon and more specifically an incubus.
Not only would this evil henchman beat unruly children, but adults as well who were thought to deserve it. As Santa would dish out presents to the good folks and children, Krampus would be lurking just behind him to pounce on those that had been bad.
Evil spirits or hallucination?
One of the strangest incidents I've come across is one that happened to an ordinary married couple called the Cumpstons.
In December 1873 a few days before Christmas the couple decided to take a short holiday. Their chosen destination was Bristol and the Victoria Hotel
They arrived late evening and were glad to be out of the dark, cold streets.
Not long after unpacking, they began to hear banging and thumping noises that grew louder and more frequent.
They reported the noise to the Landlady who basically shrugged it off and didn't seem to want to hear anything about it.
However, just as suddenly as the noises had commenced they stopped. Relieved the couple got ready for bed and went to sleep quite quickly.
At 3.00am in the morning the Cumpstons woke up to a terrifying crescendo of thumping and banging that seemed to come mostly from the floor. On jumping out of bed they had the distressing sensation that their floor was about ready to give way underneath them.
Suddenly, Mr Cumpston felt the floor open up and a horrible sensation of being sucked down! The couple screamed for help. Their voices sounded odd, seeming to echo vibrantly. Then they distinctly heard other voices also calling, as if mimicking their cries.
Mrs Cumpston grabbed at her husband and managed to pull him clear. The couple fled out of the room by the window and ran to the nearest train station.
They were panic stricken and incoherent and shouting that they believed that criminals had tried to kidnap them. It was here that the police arrested the couple and they appeared in court later on that same day charged with disorderly conduct.
The landlady did testify that she had heard some unusual noises but had not really thought that much about them and would not give any further details.
When police searched the room where the Cumpstons had stayed, they found all their belongings there and still neatly packed away. The floor boards were also intact with no sign either above or below them of any tools being recently used. The floor was solid and in very good order. The court decided that the couple had suffered a hallucination together and let them go.
To this day there is still no explanation of who or what was responsible for the noises, the voices or the sensations that this married couple had experienced. This is indeed a very curious and creepy Christmas Mystery.
What time of year, if any, do you find particularly spooky?
The Christmas Poltergeist
The following account involves a particularly nasty poltergeist attack on a family.
We learn about the experience from a letter written at Christmas in 1812. The author is Robert Roberts the tenant farmer of Bodeugan, in Wales.
The letter relates, after giving an apology to the landowner for the late delivery of a Christmas Goose, the terrifying incidents that had occurred in their home. Robert refers to the house as being 'bewitched' but the signs of poltergeist activity are classic.
The first incident occurred on the night of December 1st Robert relates how stones and pieces of coal were thrown at the windows of the house. No one was found either near the building or on the surrounding land.
The activity started again the following day, when it was reported that the milk pots, used for churning milk, had been thrown causing them to break into very small pieces. Not only that but other kitchen utensils were also thrown and scattered around the property.
The attacks then became personal. The terrified family had various objects thrown at them - these also included heavy kitchen utensils. The following day the women of the farm had stones, bricks and dung thrown at them.
The poltergeist was so violent that they could not milk the cows because of the number of missiles being fired. The activity became so severe that the women fled in terror and spent the night at a neighbour’s house.
The family seems to have had a full day of peace but this was short lived. On the following day Robert reported that water was the next weapon to be used. The distressed farmer reported that glasses were thrown at them and so much water that the family were drenched. He also reported that many other items were constantly being moved.
Then a complete silence took over the house for a full ten days. The family were relieved and thankful that they would have a peaceful Christmas.
However, on Christmas Eve, the poltergeist returned and with a vengeance. This time the attacks were personal physical attacks on the family and the household servants.
The servants in particular were frequently pinched, kicked and punched and with such violence that scratches and bruises appeared on their skin. Their bedclothes were also repeatedly ripped from the bed and thrown on the floor.
Robert then reports that the activity had become so severe that his wife became ill and had to take to her bed because of stress and fear.
However, as is the case with most poltergeist activity, it suddenly stopped as mysteriously as it had begun.
To our knowledge, no further reference was made to the Christmas Poltergeist.
I hopw you've enjoyed these Christmas Mysteries and if you have any of your own stories you would like to share then tell us about them in the comments section.
©Seeker7/H M Howell September 2013 all rights reserved