top of page


It was the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse. Well… apart from a slightly overweight old guy with a beard, breaking into your house to eat your mince pies. Don’t worry though he leaves gifts! Christmas is supposed to be a time for peace on earth and goodwill to all men but all this festive cheer can become overbearing. This got me wondering, is there a dark side to any of these time honoured traditions? Don’t get me wrong I’m no scrooge, I love Christmas especially now I have kids of my own. But as a horror fan I thought I would take a light-hearted view of Christmas from a more sinister angle including examples of horror films that have dared to throw darkness on the happiest time of year.

Christmas as we know it was commercialised by the Victorians when suddenly it became less about religion and more about presents, food and drink. It was in this era that the character of Santa Claus became prominent, based on religious tales of Saint Nicholas. He was then popularised further by advertising for Coco Cola in the 1930s. I hate to say it, but when you think about it, Santa is actually quite creepy. He may be magic, but in essence he is an old man that sneaks into your house at night while you are asleep. It goes against all instincts to say to your kids, “Hey, see that strange old man over there? Go and sit on his knee and ask him for sweets!” Yet we do it every year, queuing up in tacky Christmas grottos in shopping centres with all the manically grinning robotic snowmen and elves, singing joyous Christmas carols. This coupled with the blinding flashing lights, tinsel and fake snow is enough to send you bonkers. Don’t get me started on the songs “You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town. He sees you when you’re sleeping…He knows when you’re awake…” I don’t know about you but that sounds a bit threatening. Not only does this Santa guy watch you while you’re sleeping, but he also has the audacity to try it on with your mum “What a laugh it would have been, If Daddy had only seen, Mummy kissing Santa Claus last night...” Yeah, I’m sure Daddy would find it hysterical.

Joking aside Santa and his elves represent the fun and joy of Christmas, but there are other supernatural beings associated with this time of year that are less than friendly. Different cultures have myths and legends that put the nightmare into Christmas. One of the most well known is the Krampus. He is essentially a demonic Santa, who punishes the naughty kids while good old Saint Nicholas rewards the nice ones. This alpine legend is hundreds of years old and a similar horned pagan god even dates back to pre-Christian belief systems. Belief in the Krampus is still prevalent today in Austria, Germany and Eastern European countries. There is nothing jolly about this guy as he is half-man, half-goat, in appearance, with horns and cloven feet. He also has a lolling tongue and carries chains that he rattles at naughty children. Like Santa, he is often depicted carrying a sack, accept his sack is not filled with gifts, it is ready to be filled with children who have misbehaved. These children are then eaten, or sent to hell. Even today, Instead of listening for Santa’s sleigh bells on Christmas Eve, some poor kids are worried they might hear the clink of the Krampus’ chains instead. It turns out Santa isn’t as saintly as we thought, as these chains are supposed to represent the fact that Saint Nicholas once enslaved the Krampus demon, forcing him to do his bidding. The Krampus still appears on Christmas cards and is celebrated in parades with people lining the streets in Krampus costumes. Film makers were inspired by this legend and the film Krampus (2015) was born. This comedy horror depicts the Krampus in all its glory, hunting down those kids unfortunate enough to find themselves on the naughty list.