Offbeat Characters Of The Holiday Season

getty

Krampus

Krampus is the horrifying version of Saint Nicholas. He's one part demon, the other part goat. He's known to frighten children (or even beat them) so they end up on the nice list. But if children are bad, Krampus is happy to pull them down to hell, where he resides.

His name originates from the German word krampen, which means "claw." The German legend is that Krampus shows up on December 5th—Krampus Night—to see which children were bad before St. Nick comes later that month to reward the good children with presents.

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

When we think of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, we think of him leading the pack of Santa's sleigh. But, what's the real deal with the lovable Christmas character?

Robert L. May introduced Rudolph back in 1939 in a storybook (which later became a super famous song sung by Gene Autry and then a popular childhood movie). According to history.com, "May came up with the idea of a misfit reindeer ostracized because of his luminescent nose who used his physical abnormality to guide Santa’s sleigh and save Christmas. Seeking an alliterative name, May scribbled possibilities on a scrap of paper—Rollo, Reginald, Rodney and Romeo were among the choices—before circling his favorite. Rudolph."

Grinch

Dr. Seuss was the mastermind behind the cranky, green-haired fictional character the Grinch. He wrote How the Grinch Stole Christmas in 1957. The Grinch (whose name basically means a total killjoy) is a loner, and a grumpy one at that, living high up on Mount Crumpit away from the others in Whoville. Yet, folks can't help but love this cranky character with a heart that's "two sizes too small."

Over the years, society has labeled one who doesn't like Christmas (or who isn't happy during the holiday season) as a Grinch. However, there's always the chance you'll help them change their ways (and help their heart grow a bit bigger too).

Want to learn more about the magical language of Dr. Seuss. Read our exploration here.

Buddy the Elf

Buddy the Elf might not have been around for too long, but that doesn't diminish his stature as a holiday icon. The giddy elf was created in 2003 when the Christmas comedy Elf starring Will Ferrell was released. And, even though Buddy isn't the elf on the shelf, the book The Elf on the Shelf was written just 2 years after the movie's release.

Buddy, which means "a comrade or chum," is the perfect name for this Christmas-obsessed elf who brings joy to (almost) everyone he meets in New York City.

Frosty the Snowman

Frosty the Snowman is a beloved television character dating all the way back to 1969 (and also a song by Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson from the 50s). Frosty would come to life after local children put him together and placed a "magic hat" on his head.

Apparently, Frosty the Snowman wasn't originally a Christmas song—even though it's associated with the holiday today. There are no actual lyrics related to Christmas, just wintertime itself. But, the creators of the television show swapped out the last line of the song: "I’ll be back again some day" with "I’ll be back on Christmas day" to give it that festive feel.

Want to decode the meanings of other Christmas carols? Check out our investigation here.

Baby New Year

Baby New Year is a rather dapper character, sporting a top hat and sash while symbolizing something new and shiny—like a brand spanking new year.

According to CNN, Baby New Year goes back to ancient Greek times when a baby was "paraded around in a basket" to help ring in the new year. The 20th century was the start of "humorous illustrations" of Baby New Year in the Saturday Evening Post which other media outlets then started doing too. Today, we see plenty of Baby New Year references on television, media, and at parties, when grown adults dress in diapers and sashes in hopes of bringing in a fruitful new year.

Cupid

Everyone knows Cupid as the symbol of romance on Valentine's Day, shooting mischievous arrows at unsuspecting lovers. The name Cupid stems from the Latin word, Cupīdō, which means "desire." 

Today, this lovable scamp is no different, but back in Ancient Greek times, he was a little more devious. According to history.com, in Ancient Greece he was referred to as Eros, and "armed with a bow and a quiver filled with both golden arrows to arouse desire and leaden arrows to ignite aversion, Eros struck at the hearts of gods and mortals and played with their emotions." Dang, Cupid . . . isn't finding love hard enough?

Leprechaun

While St. Patrick's Day might be about celebrating the Ireland Bishop, Saint Patrick (and you know, drinking a lot of beer), it's also about the fun-loving green leprechaun. Why? Well, because these folklore creatures are green and Irish, making them the ideal mascot (if you will) for the Irish holiday.

Interestingly, the leprechaun wasn't always depicted so fondly. Original stories described these little guys as treacherous shoemakers who hid their earnings at the end of the rainbow. They also used to wear red and didn't start sporting green until the 20 century. Today, the leprechaun symbolizes luck because it's said when you "catch one" you'll be granted three wishes.

Easter Bunny

We all know the Easter Bunny who hops along the bunny trail every spring, filling up children's baskets with candy. Many of us also associate this fuzzy animal with the actual holy holiday of Jesus's resurrection.

But, not everyone might know how this character came about. Experts suggest the Easter Bunny was created in the 1700s, thanks to the German immigrants' osterhase or oschter haws ("a large rabbit who laid eggs"). In Germany's history, the children would create nests to catch the eggs. Today, the tradition has changed slightly . . . instead of nests, we use baskets to hold eggs made of chocolate.

Uncle Sam

A white-bearded man dressed in American flag-inspired attire, Uncle Sam is a strong symbol of the United States government—especially during the Fourth of July. But, did you know he was originally involved in the meat-packing industry?

He sent meat to the US troops in the War of 1812, and this is where he got his nickname Uncle Sam (referring to the US stamp on the boxes). Uncle Sam would later be used as an Army recruiter. And, we continue to view Uncle Sam as a patriot, showcasing our appreciation by dressing in red, white, and blue on July 4th and decorating our homes in the same color scheme as well.

The Great Pumpkin

If you were like most kids, you've probably watched It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown several (hundred) times. Although The Great Pumpkin character in the movie isn't ever seen by the Peanuts, it still exists in their imaginations.

Creator Charles Schulz apparently (according to thefw.com) wanted to show that believing in a pumpkin you can't see was just as ridiculous and sacrilegious as believing in Santa Claus. Regardless, nowadays we continue to believe in the power of The Great Pumpkin (and Santa Claus for that matter), showcasing the iconic Halloween squash in decoration throughout the autumn season.

Sign up for our Newsletter!
Start your day with weird words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Sign up for our Newsletter!

Start your day with weird words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.