‘The Fright Before Christmas’ Explores the Dark Side of America’s Biggest Holiday

After hanging up outdoor decorations at his home one cold December morning, author Jeff Belanger grew frustrated with his frigid fingers and half-working strings of holiday lights. He began asking himself questions: Why do we put wreaths on our doors? Why the lights? Why the Christmas tree? Why Santa? Why do we expend so much money and stress on this one day? How did we get to this point of commercialism and humbug-iness? Those questions lead to his new book “The Fright Before Christmas: Surviving Krampus and Other Yuletide Monsters,” which tells the frightening, monster- and ghost-filled story of Christmas through millennia of history, folklore, and legends.

“Those questions led me down a deep and dark rabbit hole that took me through many countries, times, and cultures,” said Belanger. “The Winter Solstice is a dark, cold, and dangerous time of year. In that icy darkness, monsters and ghosts are hunting us. Halloween is the second-most frightening holiday behind Christmas.”

The Fright Before Christmas book cover featuring Krampus taking a child.

From the Winter Solstice to Saturnalia to Yule to Christmas, Belanger’s book traces the yuletide season’s origins, customs, and monsters. Austria’s Krampus is the most well-known of the monsters, but it turns out Saint Nicholas has other cohorts. Germany’s Belsnickel is coming to whip naughty children, Grýla from Iceland is descending the mountains to devour lost kids, and Père Fouettard from France will beat the bad out of little brats, to name a few.

In addition to illustrating the monsters and ghosts of the holidays, “The Fright Before Christmas” explores Christianity’s long-standing war on Christmas, plus the timeline and origins of Santa Claus.

“If you need someone to show you the Christmas spirit, who better than an author best known for ghosts and the paranormal?” said Michael Pye, Associate Publisher at Red Wheel/Weiser, the publishing company behind the book. “Like Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, this is a book we know horror, paranormal, and holiday fans will love anytime of year, but especially from Halloween through Christmas.”

“The Fright Before Christmas” is now available as a full-color hardcover book, e-book, and audiobook narrated by the author.

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