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Belsnickel?!

December 20, 2011

At some point in our lives lots of us believed in Santa Claus, even if we don’t now. But how many people believe in or have heard of Belsnickel?

Belsnickel is a tradition brought to America by German immigrants, like those that settled Germantown. Unlike Santa Claus, Belsnickel was a frightening fellow used to scare children into better behavior and would come to visit children on Christmas Eve. Usually portrayed by a neighbor or relative dressed in shawls or furs and wearing a mask, Belsnickel would visit children’s homes. Upon his arrival he would throw candies or other small toys on the floor for the children. However, when they came to pick them up he would try to whip them! Some also believe that he would leave coal in children’s stockings if they misbehaved.

The Germantown Historical Society has their very own Belsnickel doll residing within their collections. Much like his life-size counterpart, this 19th century version of Belsnickel visits during the holiday season. Come see him, and some other fantastic Christmas decorations from the Historical Society’s collections on display in the museum’s galleries. The Germantown Historical Society is open on Tuesday from 9 am – 1 pm and on Thursdays from 1 – 5 pm.

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