Monday, November 6, 2023

Book Review: The Fright Before Christmas, Surviving Krampus and Other Yuletide Monsters, Witches, and Ghosts by Jeff Belanger

folklore, Christmas, Yule, book review, witch, witchcraft, occult, spiritual, wicca, wiccan, pagan
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

While it may seem like the Halloween season is over, this couldn't be further from the truth. As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, monsters come out to play. Our ancestors viewed the winter months as one of the most dangerous times of the year, not only because of freezing or starving to death, but also because of what may be lurking in the dark. The Fright Before Christmas, Surviving Krampus and Other Yuletide Monsters, Witches, and Ghosts by Jeff Belanger takes the reader on a journey through time to revisit those ghosts, monsters, and ghouls that go bump in the night during the Yuletide season, leaving the reader feeling both anxious and excited for the darkest part of the year. But not all is lost, as the light always returns, giving us hope for the future.

This humble, hard-cover book is broken up into three 'acts' or sections. Act One is titled 'Hope', which covers the history of the festivals and holidays commonly celebrated in December, where they originate from, why we began celebrating in the first place, how they have morphed over time, and where many of them are headed in the future. I seriously thought I knew the story of Saint Nicholas, but boy was I wrong and in for such a treat. The first section is certainly filled with hope, leaving you woefully unprepared for the monsters to come in 'Act Two: Fear.' In the second act, which is the majority of the book, Belanger journies through time and space to bring to life all the monsters of the season, some of which have lost their potent bite over time, but are still ferocious all the same. He covered everything from the ever-popular Krampus, Mari Lwyd, and Santa Claus, to the lesser-known Belsnickel (of course if you are a fan of The Office you are familiar with this character), Tomten, Karakoncolos, Zwarte Piet, and even the Yule Cat! Belanger covers these figures' history, purpose, and modern takes as related to Christmas and Yule, each chapter filled with pictures, drawings, and references. The book ends with Act Three: Redemption in which Belanger reminds us that just like Scoorge, we too carry the burdens of our lives wrapped around us like chains, and unless we find it in our hearts to be charitable, kind, and inclusive, we may be haunted by more than just the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future...

Overall, this book had me enthralled. I know it's early, but I am very ready for the holiday season now that Halloween has officially passed. Thanksgiving, while a great time to visit family, has never sat right with me, and I think more and more Americans are starting to feel the same way. Don't get me wrong, I am thankful and appreciate the time off with my family, but I no longer feel the need to give Thanksgiving its due before decorating for Yule. I used to be one of those people who refused to decorate until after Thanksgiving, but honestly, I am starting to put up decorations now. The Fright Before Christmas, Surviving Krampus and Other Yuletide Monsters, Witches, and Ghosts by Jeff Belanger is the perfect way to kick off the season, as it has all the terrifying elements of Halloween with all the bright, hopeful elements of Christmas and Yule. Whatever you celebrate this season, The Fright Before Christmas will make the perfect coffee table book to revisit each evening with your family, especially if you have children, to remind them to be good, mind their manners, and not stray too far in the dark and cold winter nights.

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