Monday, December 6, 2010

Belsnickle Day, December 6th

Belsnickle day, formidable and and gruff, and certainly not a Jolly old Elf, he would arrive to the ringing of sleigh bells, and if your homework was done, you were a good child, and knew all your prayers, you might get an orange and some chocolate. Otherwise it was coal and switches, and if you were really bad, you could be carried off in Belsnickles huge burlap sack.

Belsnickle can be more like St. Nicholas, the kindly bishop, who provided dowries for the 3 daughters of a poor man, by placing bags of coins in their stockings that had been hung by the fire to dry. This Belsnickle delivers shoes or socks filled with goodies, to all the goold children,
Naughty children were simply ignored.

Near Philadelphia Penn, Belsnickle might appear of Christmas Eve or any or all evenings between then and Twelfth Night. Belsnicle would be dressed in old sacks , rags or even Paperbags, faces blackened with coal or mud, they would start shortly after sunset and go from house to house, brandishing a bundle of switches. Wherever they were welcomed in they would toss candies and other goodies onto the floor, but woe to any child who grabbed for these goodies before the Belsnickle left, as they would feel the sting of those switches. many families would treat the Belsnickle to food and drink, even alcohol. this stort of Christmas time "trick or treating " went on until midnight. Often Belsnickles traveled in groups from farm to farm making merriment

-photo by Sunflowers and Dragonflies

There is also the uniquely American Belsnickle, covered in furs and looking like and old fur trapper. He often traveled with a side kick who told jokes and sang, When Belsnickle arrived at the home he would announce his presence by rapping on the window or ring a cow bell. Once inside the children would gather around and recite their prayers, ABCs or addition and subtraction tables. The children who recited would be given goodies and gifts from Belsnickles mysterious burlap sack.

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