CAROLYN’S DAILY POSTS: 2011
ARE YOU EXPECTING A VISIT FROM THE BELSNICKLE?
Are you expecting a Christmas visit from The Belsnickle?
I’d never heard of such a being until I attended a presentation on Pennsylvania Christmas traditions at the Westmoreland County Historical Society (Greensburg, Pennsylvania).
When I arrived home I looked The Belsnickle up:
Up until the second World War, if a Shenandoah Valley family was a member of the Lutheran or Reformed church, the children could expect a Christmas Eve visit from the Belsnickle. The practice might even go well beyond just one evening, running for nearly two weeks, starting a week before Christmas and continuing until New Year.
The Belsnickle was not Santa Claus! He was ugly and he frightened the children. He typically wore a costume made from stockings and burlap or paper bags. In many cases, Belsnicklers used charcoal to blacken their faces – the ultimate goal being to disguise yourself enough as to prevent identification.
The Belsnickle traveled from house to house brandishing his switches in the air. He would use these switches to whip naughty children. To good children the Belsnickle would hand out cakes or candies. These “gifts” were thrown upon the floor, but if a child were to try to recover them in the presence of the Belsnickler, the child would quickly receive a “whack” on the backside with a whip. (to continue reading click on http://www.appalachianhistory.net/2009/12/belsnickle-definitely-not-santa-claus.html )