The amalgam of winter holidays commonly called Xmas has been the springboard of many things. Some bad – in 1923 in Pulaski, Tennessee, a group of Confederate veterans convened to form a secret society that they christen the “Ku Klux Klan.” And some good – Sissy Spacek, who would go on to play the title character Carrie one of the most iconic horror films of all time, was born in 1949. And some? Just plain weird, wacky and WTF. We’ve rounded up our Top 10.
10) Scary Christmas! The Exorcist was released in theaters, 1973.
December 26 was “An excellent day for an exorcism.” Because nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a head-spinning, pea soup-spewing, crucifix-clutching, priest-hating demon, amiright? When The Exorcist was unleashed upon an unsuspecting audience—and fans of the William Peter Blatty novel of the same name—it spawned nightmares for decades to come.
9) Plumping the Poop Log: A Catalan Christmas Tradition.
How’s this for a scatological spin on the spirit of the season? Children in Spain’s Catalan region don’t stuff stockings—instead, from December 8 (the Feast of the Immaculate Conception) through Christmas Eve, they stuff their beloved “Caga Tió” (shit log) with candy, nuts and dried fruit. The thing itself is creepy AF: It’s a hollow log with stick legs, a smiley face, and a floppy red hat. Once he’s full of goodies, he’s forced to excrete them through a brutal thrashing. On Christmas Eve, the kiddos gather around the breaming branch and beat him with sticks while singing the traditional Tió de Nadal song:
Hazelnuts and mató cheese,
If you don’t shit well,
I’ll hit you with a stick,
8) Manslaughter at the Italian Hall, 1913.
When workers in Michigan’s largest copper mine went on strike in the fall, it didn’t go as planned. At an impasse for months, broke and dejected, the miners decided to hold a Christmas party on December 24 to boost morale. The party was held in The Italian Hall, and around 600 people, including children, gathered there to enjoy themselves. During the gala, an unknown person shouted, “Fire! Fire!” to ruin the party. The ploy worked. In the stampede to the nearest stairwell 73 people, of which 62 were children, were killed. To this day, the identity of the prankster is a mystery, and it remains the biggest unsolved manslaughter in U.S. history.
7) Kentucky Fried Christmas.
While Shinto is the order of the religious day in Japan, the celebration of Christmas in Asia usually involves imported western traditions. But maybe there’s been a bit of a mix-up with two white-bearded jolly icons…It’s not Santa Claus who gets the kudos—it’s Colonel Sanders! On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Japan, you might have to make reservations to get a table at KFC. Forget hearth and home. The fried chicken fast food franchise has become the place to be, to celebrate the birth of Jesus… and extra-crispy drumsticks.
6) Naughty? Enjoy your lump of coal, you little brat.
While the origins behind the notion that Santa gives lumps of coal to the bad little ones have been lost to the mists of time, there’s no doubt the threat carried more weight back in the day. The combustible black sedimentary rock was used to heat homes, and—house the occasional diamond inside. But receiving a lump of coal is the least of kids’ worries in some countries. In parts of France and Belgium St. Nicholas was partnered up with a figure known as Père Fouettard, a name that translates to “The Whipping Father.” As Bustle.com reporter Lara Rutherford-Morrison wrote, “Père Fouettard started out as an innkeeper who drugged and murdered schoolchildren and then made stew out of them, Sweeny Todd-style. (Yes, really.) St. Nicholas brought the kids back to life and then made Père Fouettard his companion; while St. Nick gave out presents to good kids, the Whipping Father would give misbehaving children coal, birch branches, and beatings.” Yikes!
5) Sexy Santa.
Kissing under the mistletoe is one Christmas tradition that brings romance to mind. But did you know that many of our traditional holiday foods are actually aphrodisiacs? Chocolate contains tryptophan, a building block of serotonin, a brain chemical involved in sexual arousal. It also has phenylethylamine, a that’s released in the brain when people fall in love. Surprisingly, serving eggnog, even without the liquid-courage addition of rum or whisky, is a good bet for getting some Yuletide nookie. As Emma McGowan of Bustle.com wrote, “Eggnog is made from eggs, milk, cream, honey, vanilla, and nutmeg — all of which are considered to be aphrodisiacs. Eggs are a sign of fertility and also said to boost the libido; ayurvedic medicine says that milk strengthens reproductive tissue; honey helps metabolize estrogen and may boost testosterone, both of which are important for sex drive; vanilla is considered to have a highly sensual smell; and nutmeg used to be used in India to treat low libido in men. So, basically, eggnog is the ultimate sex drink.”
4) The “Little Tramp” Died, 1977.
Could you imagine waking up on Christmas morning, all really to unwrap gifts, and instead you see Charlie Chaplin wrapped in a body bag? That’s what happened when comedy’s beloved “Little Tramp” left the astral plane at the age of 88 on December 25, 1977. He went peacefully, snug in his bed (with visions of sugarplums dancing in his head?), a few hours before the family’s traditional Christmas celebration was to begin. Chaplin had been in failing health for many years during which he had been confined to a wheelchair. Chaplin’s wife, Oona, and seven of their children, Michael, Josephine, Victoria, Eugene O’Neill, Jane and Annette-Emilie, were by his bedside when the comedian kicked off. As the body was rolled out, some of his 10 grandchildren were in the family room, playing with their new Christmas toys. Charlie’s daughter, Geraldine, was in Madrid making a film at the time (she’s been in the fairly recent horror films The Wolfman and The Orphanage).
3) The Hideous Holiday Sweater.
Remember Bill Cosby as the sweater icon of the 80s? Probably not… he’s too memorable for other things now. But that’s when the heyday of the “Ugly Christmas Sweater” began. Popularity waned and good fashion sense prevailed for a while—but now the terrifying threads are back with a vengeance. According to the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book: The Definitive Guide to Getting Your Ugly On, there was an avalanche of ugly sweater parties in the early 2000s and the trend has, er, snowballed from there. Put a hipster inside an ugly sweater, and you’ve got a sleigh full of irony right there.
2) Holiday Horror with a Dash of Yuletide Homicide, 12/24/1898
December 24, 1898 was the busiest night in the history of the Savannah Police Department. The force made over 150 arrests, and caught two murderers. The first was Charles Low, who knifed Charles Green in the gut over a woman. The second murder was also over amour—a woman named Queen Martin quarreled with her lover and finished it by stabbing him in the heart.
1) All Things Krampus
Krampus has made quite a comeback in recent years. Once almost lost in the ether of olden times, the horned, anthropomorphic figure described as “half-goat, half-demon” has made quite a comeback thanks to the 2015 movie. The devilish dervish has also shown up on “Venture Brothers,” “Grimm,” “Supernatural,” “The Colbert Report,” and “American Dad.” Krampus is German in origin, and he is a counterpart to sweet St. Nicholas, who rewards good children with cookies and candy. Krampus, in contrast, swats wicked children and takes them away to his lair…that is, if he doesn’t drown them in the river first. He’s similar to Père Fouettard, but it’s the horns and hooves that land Krampus in the #1 spot.
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