Three Odd Christmas Characters

As far as old Santa goes, he isn't all that bad. He might be a little bit portly, stuck in his ways when it comes to what colour is the new black this year and far too eager when it comes to chimney burrowing, but so what? Behind his fluffy white beard is a jolly face, something you just can't knock. He also has an outlandish form of transport, and most importantly, delivers all our pressies on time like the gift-giving robo-trooper he is! And besides, some of the alternative Christmas characters are just plain unsavoury...

1. Austria - Krampus

Think of Krampus as sort of a Father Christmas antithesis, a kind of festive devil if you will. Unofficially he's Santa's evil twin, charged with the unpleasant task of beating and punishing all the children who have misbehaved. This reprimanding may also stretch to the stuffing of 'bad' kids into a sack and fleeing into the black forest to eat them. Charming.

He has a night dedicated to him appropriately named Krampus Night, on which guys dress up in truly terrifying and fiendish outfits to drunkenly roam and rush around towns hitting people with sticks, surely that sounds worse than it is?! Although popular in Austria this Germanic tradition from the alpine regions is practiced throughout Hungary, Slovenia and Bavaria.

2. Iceland - The Christmas Cat

On the surface the Christmas Cat sounds like something positive and enjoyable and in keeping with the seasonal hi-jinks we all revel in every December. Unfortunately, especially if you happen to be an Icelandic kid, this isn't the case. Tradition in Iceland states that everyone at Christmas should receive a new item of clothing. If you did receive a new bit of kit, then you're fine, the Christmas Cat is not your concern.

However if you were unfortunate enough only to receive toys and videogames, trouble is coming... the Christmas Cat is going to eat you. How mean is this guy? It's not even your fault that you didn't receive a new hoody and yet you're the one going to be eaten! This Christmas Cat is pretty formidable too; large, vicious and owned by a family descended from trolls. The prospects don't look good...

3. Spain - El Caganer

You're not going to believe this entry courtesy of the Spanish. His name is El Caganer and he is generally found represented as a figure in nativity scenes. Originally he took the form of a peasant, on occasion a monk, though nowadays is represented by just about anyone.

What's so special about him you're thinking? Well, how can you put this delicately, forget it; I'm just going to say it. El Caganer is having a poo. Yup, in the nativity scene. If there is one saving grace he tends to be placed, discretely in most nativity set-ups, away from the manager, which is kind of reassuring. The name actually translates as 'The Great Defecator' and unbelievably isn't sacrilegious, apparently having him present is a sort of blessing for the coming harvest. Fertilizer I guess.

Who knew that Christmas had such a diverse range of colourful characters hidden in its festive spectrum? And this is only three!

David Games researches and writes about weird, quirky and novelty Christmas gifts for the online retailer Find Me A Gift.