Ron Granieri: Belsnickle — Real, Or Dwight Shrute’s Imagination?





He Sees You When You’re Sleeping…

So the RP called me Saturday morning with a question.

This one was about last week’s Office episode where Dwight Shrute relates the story of Belsnickle, the pre-Christmas visitor of German and Pennsylvania Dutch folklore.

Swathed in furs, this surly figure shows up at the door with a switch in hand, to swat bad children, scaring them straight so that they will behave in time for Santa to bring them presents.

Is that for real? He asked.

Oh yes, I responded (and of course checked Wikipedia afterward to be sure).

That of course led to the obvious follow-up question: WTF?

The short answer is, because German folklore is crazy. Read the original Hausmärchen from the Brothers Grimm if you want further proof.

The longer answer is because parents back in the day realized you needed something stronger than “now, now, Santa’s watching!” when they want to get the little one to behave in the run-up to the holidays. And part of me thinks those parents from days of yore had something.

Belsnickle is delightfully direct. No false threats or mind games.

Modern parenting has gone too far away from that in the world of holiday planning, preferring subtlety to an unsettling degree. The most modern surveillance state version of this is the Elf on the Shelf, who appears in a different spot in the house every morning, constantly watching children and reporting back to the North Pole

Somehow people think this idea of Santa’s CIA is cute and not creepy. What’s next, reindeer-driven drones? If so, we can even re-write famous carols, viz.:

He sees you when you’re sleeping… his drones fly overhead

They record every move you make, now does that fill you with dread?


Here comes Santa Claus, Here Comes Santa Claus

From Langley, VA

He’s got a lot of clandestine intel

And could put you away!

Somehow, a fur-clad hobo with a switch doesn’t seem so odd or scary after all.

Frehlicher Grischtdaag!



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