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Thu Dec 14, 2017, 07:13 AM

FSogol's Advent Calendar Day 14: How did coal become the gift choice for the naughty kids?

The tradition of giving misbehaving children lumps of fossil fuel predates the Santa we know, and is also associated with St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, and Italy’s La Befana. Though there doesn't seem to be one specific legend or history about any of these figures that gives a concrete reason for doling out coal specifically, the common thread between all of them seems to be convenience.

Santa and La Befana both get into people’s homes via the fireplace chimney and leave gifts in stockings hung from the mantel. Sinterklaas’s controversial assistant, Black Pete, also comes down the chimney and places gifts in shoes left out near the fireplace. St. Nick used to come in the window, and then switched to the chimney when they became common in Europe. Like Sinterklaas, his presents are traditionally slipped into shoes sitting by the fire.

So, let’s step into the speculation zone: All of these characters are tied to the fireplace. When filling the stockings or the shoes, the holiday gift givers sometimes run into a kid who doesn’t deserve a present. So to send a message and encourage better behavior next year, they leave something less desirable than the usual toys, money, or candy—and the fireplace would seem to make an easy and obvious source of non-presents. All the individual would need to do is reach down into the fireplace and grab a lump of coal. (While many people think of fireplaces burning wood logs, coal-fired ones were very common during the 19th and early 20th centuries, which is when the American Santa mythos was being established.)

That said, with the exception of Santa, none of these characters limits himself to coal when it comes to bad kids. They’ve also been said to leave bundles of twigs, bags of salt, garlic, and onions, which suggests that they’re less reluctant than Santa to haul their bad kid gifts around all night in addition to the good presents.


From http://mentalfloss.com/article/31910/why-does-santa-claus-give-coal-bad-kids

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Reply FSogol's Advent Calendar Day 14: How did coal become the gift choice for the naughty kids? (Original post)
FSogol Dec 2017 OP
Donkees Dec 2017 #1
unc70 Dec 2017 #2
FSogol Dec 2017 #3
The Velveteen Ocelot Dec 2017 #4
FSogol Dec 2017 #5

Response to FSogol (Original post)

Thu Dec 14, 2017, 08:52 AM

1. May have its origin in ancient Siberian shamanic smudging rituals to purify 'negative energy'

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Response to FSogol (Original post)

Thu Dec 14, 2017, 09:14 AM

2. Better a lump of coal than a beating from Black Pete

Or being kidnapped by Black Pete and taken to Spain in a burlap sack.

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Response to unc70 (Reply #2)

Thu Dec 14, 2017, 07:04 PM

3. After 2017, I'd be happy to be drug off to Spain.

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Response to FSogol (Original post)

Thu Dec 14, 2017, 09:29 PM

4. Getting a lump of coal is better than being eaten by Iceland's Yule Cat.

If you don't get new clothes for Christmas, the Yule Cat, the pet of a family of unpleasant trolls, will eat you.

The story of the Jólakötturinn likely dates back to the Dark Ages, though the oldest written accounts are from the 19th century. In any case, much like the Krampus, the Yule Cat has long been a Christmas-time enforcer of good behavior, Miss Cellania writes for Mental Floss. According to Icelandic tradition, anyone who finished their chores before Christmas would get new clothes as a reward. Meanwhile, lazy children who didn’t get their work done would have to face the Jólakötturinn.

For starters, the Jólakötturinn is no mere kitten—it towers above the tallest houses. As it prowls about Iceland on Christmas night, the Yule Cat peers in through the windows to see what kids have gotten for presents. If new clothes are among their new possessions, the big cat will move along. But if a child was too lazy to earn their new socks, the Jólakötturinn will eat their dinner, before moving on to the main course: the child herself, Hart writes.

“This is the kind of message Icelanders like to send out in their folklore,” Haukur S. Magnússon writes for the Reykyavík Grapevine. “If you do not have the money or means of acquiring new items of clothing before the festival of lights, you will be eaten by a gigantic cat.”

Presumably the threat of being eaten by the Jólakötturinn is also meant to inspire generosity in children who don’t have to fret about the Yule Cat, as giving clothes to the less-fortunate would grant them protection from the monstrous feline. But the giant beast isn’t even the only human-eating Christmas monster that Icelanders have the misfortune of having to face every year. There’s also the Jólakötturinn’s owners: the trolls Grýla, Leppalúđi and their 13 children, who are collectively known as the “Yule Lads,” Magnússon writes.
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/each-christmas-icelands-yule-cat-takes-fashion-policing-extreme-180961420/

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Response to The Velveteen Ocelot (Reply #4)

Fri Dec 15, 2017, 12:11 AM

5. Awesome. never heard that story before*. Thanks for posting.



* and I read a lot of folklore.

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