So, something premature for today, because it fits the post-glut day I’m having.
Namely the Finnish name-day for the thirteenth of January; the Finnish calendar of name-days being an outgrowth of the medieval saint calendar. The thirteenth of January is the day of Nuutti, a rather antiquated man’s name; and in the olden days it was also the day of the rather pre-Christian Nuuttipukki, the negative of Santa Claus.
Santa’s name in Finland is Joulupukki; the first part, “joulu”, is something like Yule, and means Christmas; the second, “pukki”, obviously meant something else in the long gone days since nowadays it just means “he-goat”, which does not work with the image of the Ho-ho-ho-fellow, unless you think of some X-rated X-mas production. (‘”Why, you old goat”, she tittered and hit him with the leash, again. “Rudolph was right about you!”‘)
Now, Joulupukki, the modern tradition, brings gifts and is a jolly good fellow and all that; Nuuttipukki, the older midwinter bringer, is naturally more sinister: he comes to house after Christmas to take it away, accompanied by a crew of miscreants and rowdy youths, shouting, throwing things around, behaving in ways that would not be borne if they were not traditional, and generally making an ass (or a goat?) of himself. He and his accomplices may behave rather like drunken frat boys, spying someone sleeping and carrying him outside bed and all, presumably to much traditional laughter. He’s dressed in moldy furs and has spoons for ears, an axe for a nose, and the like: altogether an example of what happens when you let the country folk come up with traditions on their own.
It probably does not surprise you the bishops did not approve; the tradition’s been mostly extinct for a century or more, save for the local misbehaviour of kids, dressed in the adults’ clothes, begging for candy, and doing things that suspiciously resemble Halloween malice save for their date.
Why, an answer to your first question — am not pulling your leg. It’s a dodo tradition, but it used to be just the way I told you. With enough alcohol and tradition people are capable of quite anything you can imagine, and several things you rather wouldn’t.
And to the second — yup; these troops were (in Finland anyway) some mixed inspiration for Joulupukki coming in with the presents instead of just stealthily leaving them somewhere. (I’d much rather have someone in a pelt with horns, and spoons and axes and the like prancing around terrifying kids than the crimson spheroid man, but ain’t my choice.)
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One more thing — the thirteenth of January is also the end of joulurauha or the Christmas peace, yearly proclaimed by some officious person from the olden capital of Turku; the peace proclamation says, with distinctly medieval tones, that a peace is yay hereto proclaimeth to the Christmassytimes, and hey if any mifcreant it breaketh, thrice times shall be the righteous punishment of the Law upon the flat forehead of thou evil and wicked person, verily, all.
(Shorter Finnish X-peace proclamation: “Triple penalty time! Ho ho ho!”)
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Also: It’s Lovecraft time over at Lemmata, this sort-of comic of mine.