The countdown to Christmas has begun, and with festivities, Christmas creatures and folklore come. Whether you’re looking out for mischievous lutins or can’t wait to hear Rudolph’s sleigh bells, there’s a whole world of characters, some of whom you may not have heard of. Here, we’ll explore the many Christmas creatures that pop up each December from different places around the world. From the terrifying Krampus to the jolly elves, see how many you can spot this year! But before we jump into 24 Christmas creatures to look out for in December, let’s explore some of the key questions around Christmas folklore and animals.
What animals are associated with Christmas?
Aside from presents, decorations and the ever-loved Christmas dinner, there are plenty of animals associated with Christmas too. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is perhaps the most iconic but there are plenty more. Here’s a list of all the animals we love to hear about over the festive period:
- Reindeer – Famously giving Santa a pull along his sleigh, Reindeer are used to cold climates and are one of the most well-known and loved animals of Christmas time.
- Polar bears – Known for their thick fur and love of all things snow, Polar bears are linked to a common fireplace decoration at Christmas. That’s because wherever there’s a white and icy landscape, polar bears are never too far behind.
- Goats – While not quite as common as a decoration around the house, goats are intrinsically linked to Christmas in Scandinavian culture. That’s because of the Yule goat, number 21 in our list of Christmas creatures. Widely believed to have pulled Thor’s chariot, the Yule goat is commonly celebrated in the likes of Norway, Finland and many other northern European countries.
- Donkeys – In Christianity, donkeys play a key role at Christmas time. Loved by Christians the around the world, donkeys are a symbol of long journeys to see family at Christmas time. The most famous Christmas donkey is the one who brought pregnant Mary to Bethlehem, just before she gave birth to baby Jesus.
- Robins – It’s commonly believed that Robins are a winter bird but those with a keen eye will see them all year round. This doesn’t make them any less of a festive animal though. With their red-breasted colouring, they resemble a postman and therefore symbolise the giving and receiving of Christmas cards. Read more about this here.
- Partridge – Playing a big role in what is perhaps the most catchy Christmas carol, we don’t hear much about partridges, especially those who like a pear tree, at any other time of year.
- Camels – Similar to donkeys, camels symbolise long journeys, dedication and love for our family. Having brought the three wise men to Bethlehem, they’re a classic part of any Christmas nativity and as so, a widely loved animal of Christmas. Without camels, the wise men wouldn’t have made it to Jesus’ birth with their presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Without them, perhaps we wouldn’t celebrate Christmas with present giving!
Who is the Christmas monster?
Most commonly, Christmas folklore deems Krampus (number 10 in our list) the true monster of Christmas. But this is typically from a Central European point of view. The true answer to the question is that it really depends on where you come from!
For example, in Wales, Mari Lwyd, the Christmas Zombie horse is deemed most monstrous. In Iceland, the spookiest character of Christmas folklore is Gryla, an evil troll who appears around winter on the hunt for naughty children.
So, while you may have thought Christmas all about happy elves and friendly reindeer, there are plenty of evil Christmas characters to watch out for too. In our infographic below, we’ll explore the wide and wondrous creatures of Christmas, from the cute and helpful right through to the terrifying!
24 Christmas Creatures to Look Out for in December
Known the world round for his red nose, Rudolph is the most famous reindeer of all. Originating from the North Pole and leading Santa’s sleigh through the darkness of Christmas Eve, this friendly reindeer is perhaps the most loved all Christmas characters. Widely referenced throughout plenty of Christmas songs, it’s almost impossible to spend December without encountering this mightiest of Christmas creatures. But it wasn’t always easy-going for our four-legged friend, laughed at by the other reindeer for his luminous nose, he had to overcome the odds and learn to love what made him different.
Stemming from Icelandic Christmas folklore, this evil character is widely feared in the Arctic regions. Most often pictured as giant troll, Gryla is believed to kidnap and feast on naughty children at this time of year! She’s often seen with her husband, Leppaludi, who stays at home and keeps the fire going until her return.
3. The Yule Lads
The Yule Lads also stem from Icelandic folklore. As the 13 sons of Gryla, they are known for their mischief and prank-pulling! Each is identified by their own stunt, for example ‘Spoon Licker’ and ‘Window Peeper’. Keep your eyes peeled over Christmas as you don’t want to find yourself in the path of these troublesome terrors!
4. The Grinch
Coming all the way from the mystical Whoville, this grouchy green creature has a heart ‘two sizes too small’. He’s the perfect symbol for the Christmas grouch and goes to show that festivities and a little kindness can cheer up even the most troubled and lonely of hearts. One of Dr Seuss’s most famous characters, the Grinch is known for trying to spoil Christmas before eventually falling in love with this most wonderful time of the year.
5. La Befana
Despite her witchy ways, La Befana is loved across the whole of Italy for her delivery of presents at Christmas time. Also known as ‘Baboushka’ in Russia, she’s is a gentle old soul who travels the world, leaving cookies and gifts in children’s houses. If you’re spending your Christmas in either of these countries, keep your eyes to the skies as you may just see her whipping by on her dusty old broomstick.
6. The Yule Cat
Unfortunately, the clan of Gryla and the Yule Lads continues. This feline addition to the Gryla household is not your average four-legged friend. A giant cat, she feasts on anyone, unless they’ve received new clothes for Christmas. So, be sure to wear a brand new outfit otherwise you may be visited by this most evil of Christmas characters.
A big part of French folklore, Lutins are believed to stem from Lapland. Despite their mischievous behaviour and cheeky appearance, they’re actually rather helpful. A type of festive hobgoblin, they spend their time helping Père Noël (Father Christmas). Of course, like with any hobgoblins, you should expect a ton of outrageous pranks and fun when these guys are around. But really, at their heart, they’re really part of the good guys.
8. The Tomten
Described and loved in the books of Astrid Lindgren, these christmas creatures look a little like a garden gnome. They’re known to be the protectors of your home, but they do have a temper. To make sure your own Tomten is happy in his or her job, you’ll want to leave food out on Christmas Eve. Quick tip: they love butter and porridge!
Despite his roughshod appearance, Belsnickel is a Christmas creature to love and adore! Celebrated in German folklore, he arrives 2 weeks before Christmas and it’s his job to warn the naughty children to behave. For those who’ve been good all year round, he rewards them with sweets and tasty treats. Despite his German origins, he’s celebrated around the world in places like Brazil and even had a brief cameo on the US Office!
Evil Christmas character alert! Krampus is perhaps the most feared creature in all Christmas folklore. Half-goat, half-demon, he’s Santa’s evil counterpart and punishes the naughty children, while Santa leaves gifts for the nice ones. But unlike Santa, he doesn’t just appear on the 25th of December. He arrives in town on Krampusnacht, the 5th December and will hang around until Christmas day. If you’ve been badly behaved at all this year, watch out for he’s known to stuff naughty children into his sack and take them to his lair!
11. Frosty the Snowman
Immortalised in the hit Christmas song by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins, Frosty the Snowman has become an integral part of western festivities. With a corncob pipe and a button nose, he has the ability to come to life and is known for his love to dance. If we’re blessed with snow this year, you’ll likely see plenty of snowmen across your neighbours gardens and local streets. Pay attention though, as one of those might be Frosty himself!
Cheeky, always up for a laugh, but ultimately a key part of Santa’s workshop, the elves are a joy to behold each and every year. As Santa’s happy helpers, they assemble children’s gifts at Santa’s workshop up North. It’s been reported that some elves now leave the workshop in December, opting instead for some mischief in people’s homes. Have you seen any elves in your home this year?
13. Mrs Claus
It’s said that behind every powerful man is a more powerful woman. And it’s no different in Lapland. Mrs Claus is Santa’s faithful wife. While she doesn’t get quite the same glory as her bearded counterpart, she’s the engine that keeps Christmas alive each and every year. If you’re lucky enough to visit lapland, expect to see her baking cookies for the elves, tending to the reindeer and even assisting with the toys all in time for Christmas.
14. Frau Perchta
Back to the evil Christmas characters, this gruesome old witch doles out brutal punishments to those who’ve misbehaved in the lead-up to the 12 days of Christmas. She has a particular penchant for children who don’t tell the truth. So if you have a tendency towards the dishonest, you may need to buck your ideas up! In fairness to Frau Perchta, she’s not all bad. She does have a sense of justice and will hand out presents to those who are most-deserving.
15. Jack Frost
The friendliest ice-man around, this sprite-like character leaves a shiver wherever he goes. He’s responsible for the ice and snow and if you don’t believe in him, you may end up with a very non-Christmassy Christmas. He’s often referred to as Old Man Winter and despite being a nice chap, if you don’t have your gloves and hat, you may come to dislike his cold and frosty impact on your climate.
16. The Ghost of Christmas Past
A very British Christmas creature, the Ghost of Christmas Past first appeared to Ebeneezer Scrooge in to Dickens’s classic novel, A Christmas Carol. He’s a white-robed figure of indeterminate age who appears to remind you of previous years. This Christmas character is one you won’t have to look out for. His bright candle-like head beams out radiant light so you’ll no doubt see him coming. But don’t be fearful, he’s there to remind you all of your wonderful Christmas memories.
17. The Ghost of Christmas Present
This jolly giant is also from Dickens’ classic novel. He’s believed to resemble Santa and wears a fur-lined green robe and holding a large torch. If you’re lucky enough to meet him this year, he’ll no doubt show you scenes of festivity around your neighbourhood. The best thing about the Ghost of Christmas Present is he understands that this time of year is not about how much you have, but what you make of it.
18. The Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come
The most fearsome character in Dickens’s novel, this Christmas creature resembles the Grim Reaper with his spooky hooded cloak. If you see him, run the other way, as he’s known to point his creepy hand to the future leaving you unable to appreciate all the festive joy that’s happening at this glorious time of year.
19. Mari Llwyd
This evil Welsh Christmas creature appears in the form of a zombie horse every December. She rises from the dead to remind the living of their mortality. Her and her not-so-merry band will hang around outside your house until you run out of ways to keep them out. Then, you’ll have to supply the food and drink all night long to this spookiest of ensembles.
20. The Whos
With tiny, tiny noses, it’s easy to tell a Who from one of us humans. They live near to the Grinch and are known for their love of Christmas, always upholding the Christmas spirit. Whos have incredible balance and love to be super busy, ideal for this most frantic time of year!
21. The Yule Goat
From Scandinavian Christmas folklore, the Yule Goat is more than just your average. As partners to the God Thor, they pull along his chariot and are widely considered the best bearers of gifts the world has ever seen. If you see a Yule Goat, you can be certain that presents aren’t far behind!
22. Ded Moroz
Part of Slavic folklore at Christmas time, Ded Moroz is an equivalent to Santa. But unlike his Western counterpart, he dons a blue fur coat and a magic staff. He also turns up a little later than Western Santa, choosing to deliver presents to children in person on New Year’s Eve. He’s often known as Grandfather Frost and is one of the most jovial Christmas characters.
23. The Snow Maiden
Granddaughter to Ded Moroz, this princess-like Christmas character accompanies Ded Moroz on New Year’s Eve. Spot her in silvery blue robes and a furry hat. So widely loved is The Snow Maiden that many fairytales and operas have been created about her life. She has snow-white skin, deep blue eyes and beautiful fair hair. If you spot her this year, feel blessed to have been in her presence!
What would a Christmas characters and creatures list be without the one and only Santa Claus? Originally known as St. Nicholas, the big man himself is renowned for bringing gifts to nice children around the world every Christmas eve! He originates from Western Christian culture and can often be seen with his reindeer carousing the night sky! He likes a bite to eat and a drink so be sure to leave him out some grub. If you’re lucky enough to visit one of his grottos this year, expect a lot of belly laughs, a friendly chat, and maybe even a present you can place beneath your tree for Christmas day.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of good and evil Christmas creatures! Use the list of 24 as direction for bedtime themes over the festive period to get your little ones in the mood. Just be sure to not go overboard with the scarier characters. And if you’re looking for more inspiration on bedtime stories for kids, head over to our Bedtime Story Finder.
How many Christmas creatures did you recognise? Let us know in the comments and have a fantastic Christmas!