Unique Christmas Decor: Vintage Belsnickel Santas

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Belsnickel Santas, unlike the jolly, red-suited figure we are familiar with, is a different breed of Christmas character altogether.

Let’s talk about this unique Christmas decor: Vintage Belsnickel Santas that I often get questions about. I have been collecting Belsnickel Santas for many years now. My collection is of reproduction Belsnickel. Although I recently purchased an antique Belsnickel Santa to add to my collection. They are very hard to find.

Vase in blue and white with evergreen arrangement and two Belsnickle Santas.

On a mother-daughter trip, I purchased my first Belsnickel in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I fell in love with the vintage vibe of this Santa. Little did I know what they were called at the time or history.

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Vintage Reproduction Belsnickel Santa in a red velvet coat with trim on his coat and carrying a tinsel tree.

Who is Belsnickel? Well, unlike the beloved Santa Claus, Belsnickel is a dualistic character. He combines both gift-giving and discipline, rewarding good behavior with treats and playfully scolding naughty children.

Belsnickel is a fur-clad, often gruff figure and can be quite scary looking at times. He is from the folklore of southwestern Germany and surrounding regions.

The folklores indicates that Belsnickel appears on St. Nicholas Day (December 6th), not Christmas Eve. I thought it was very interesting. Maybe he appears as a warning to little ones before Christmas. Who knows, but I found the story very interesting.

It is said that he dresses in rags, animal skins and has an intimidating look on his face. His sack contains goodies for well-behaved children but also has a switch for those that have been naughty. If I were a child, I would be afraid of this guy. Especially since folklore has that Belsnickel makes loud noises, banging chains or swatting with his rod. One would think he was a crazy old man in my opinion. LOL

Green vintage scale with old fashion Santa on a white riser with cutting boards and a house in the background.

He is a creature of folklore from the Palatinate region of southwestern Germany, brought to America by German immigrants, who became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. The figure has persisted in the Pennsylvania Dutch regions of the U.S. and spread a bit into the wider culture.

He is said to be a companion of St. Nicholas. Belsnickel either handed out treats like cakes, candies, fruits, and nuts, or distributed smacks with the switch he carried. He’s also known as Kriskinkle, Beltznickle, and Pelsnichol. We can think of Belsnickel as the stern equivalent to jolly ole Saint Nicholas.

Gold and cream Belsnickel Santa with handmade twine trees on an end table.

In conclusion, I find the Belsnickel Santa a fascinating character who represents a different side of the holiday season. Belsnickel is not universally known as Santa Claus, he offers a unique perspective on good and bad behavior, and his tradition adds a layer of cultural richness to the festive season.

Belsnickel and Santa Claus are actually quite different figures, despite both being associated with Christmas gift-giving. Although in the US, Santa Claus is the dominant Christmas figure, it is fun to collect figures that have roots in Europe and in Pennsylvania Dutch communities.

Happy Holidays, sweet friend! Wishing you a season of goodwill and happiness.

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4 Comments

    1. Yes, Do some of the antique ones and prints are very creepy. I would not go for anything that looks evil. The antique one that I purchased as a Christmas gift to myself looks very similar to the ones I collect. The story I thought was very interesting. How these pagan folklores come about from the old world.

    1. Kim, prints of this Santa can be a little creepy. I am sticking with collecting only the old fashion pretty looking ones. LOL I don’t do creepy!

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