Pelznickel and Kristkind
Electronic mail message from Dr. William Wiest, Portland,
Thanks for the note about some of my questions. Your Dad's special
memories about the Christmas tradition is very interesting.
I noticed that you wrote concerning 'the scary guy,'
"He was called the German name for Belzebub"
and I wondered at the similarities among Belzebub,
Peltzbube, and Beelzebub; the latter I remember vaguely
as a Satan-related spirit from Bible courses in high
school (private Mennonite school in Reedley called
Immanuel Academy) as well as at Tabor College. I got
the item below by googling 'belzebub.'
In the New Testament, the leader of the devils, sometimes identified
with Satan and sometimes with his chief assistant (see devil). In
the Old Testament Beelzebub was a fertility god worshipped by the
Philistines and other Semitic groups (Baal).
I now remember that the term I was searching for when I first wrote
'belzbube' was 'pelznickel' or 'belznickel.' I found a number of
relevant websites, now that I remembered the name we use in our
local Oregon chapter of AHSGR (Belznickek or Pelznickel). See especially
the last website I refer to.
"The figure Nast drew, which was based on Pelznikel, the St.
Nicholas of his German ancestors, is the famous Santa Claus, now
known to everybody in the country." (see http://www.germanheritage.com/
The following is a web page of the Germans in Siberia; it is in
Russian but has 'Pelznickel' in the index (in Latin Alphabet). http://rdhaus.rtime.ru/index.php?page=41
The website that I found most interesting is :
from which I copied the following: (There's much more there of interest)
Kriskind and Belznikel
When the German immigrants settled in colonies in the Volga River
area of Russia in 1767, they were given a number of privileges.
This included freedom of their religion, schools and the use of
their mother tongue. It was natural that they retained their German
Christmas was an eventful time of the year. During the celebration
was the appearance of two individuals - the Belznikel and the Kriskind.
The name Belznikel is in two parts. Belz (actually spelled Pelz)
is a pelt or fur coat and nikel is a nasty person. This unsavory
person, using a switch would punish the boys who had misbehaved
during the year. Sometimes he would also put them in a large sack
and drag them away. Whenever a boy was being bad, he was warned
- "Der Belznikel kommt" (the Belznikel is coming).