Since it is the season of Merry, I wish to share with you an old and perhaps a bit sinister folklore story related to Christmas. Most of you are probably aware of the legend of Krampus, since an American horror/comedy movie came out this year with that same name. Really shortly said, Krampus is a mythological creature from the Alps, who is a sort of an Anti-Santa Claus. While Santa rewards nice people, Krampus punishes the bad ones. This post is about a whole other entity from the Nordic countries. This tradition spread from Sweden to Finland centuries ago, probably in the Middle Ages.
The spooky creature I am going to write about is called Nuuttipukki (it is translated as the New Year Buck in some sources), who is a horned, goat-like humanoid with an entourage of masked folk and he visits houses during the Saint Knut's Day. It used to be on January 7 but nowadays Saint Knut's Day is celebrated a week later. The tradition of Nuuttipukki still remained on the first week of the new year, though.
Nuuttipukki and his friends roam around the village and go from house to house insisting to have leftover foods and alcohol beverages after Christmas. It is bad luck not to yield to his requests, otherwise he might scare your animals, trash your garden and harass your servants (and he might still do that after food and drink, you never know with Nuuttipukki).
I wish to stress that this was not something that happened on the level of stories but in the reality too and it was not the master of the house who organized it. It was usually young men from another village who dressed as Nuuttipukki and his fellows and they might be quite drunk and mischievous. You could not be completely certain that food and booze would keep them happy.
This tradition was alive and kicking in Finland until the Second World War. Here is a photo from 1926. I believe the broom in this photo is part of the costume, to make this person more goat-like, so it is not a witch thing.
Here is a photo of a mask of Nuuttipukki from the 19th century Finland. It is made out of sheepskin. This mask is from the collection of the National Museum of Finland and the photo was taken by Markku Haverinen.
As mentioned previously, it was believed that the dead Finns like the Christmas and in today's Finland it is still customary to commemorate the deceased relatives on Christmas. We take candles on the graves and on Christmas Eve the graveyards are astonishingly beautiful seas of candlelight. We also bring candles on the graveyards on All Saint's Day (about the same time as Halloween) to commemorate the dead and on 6th of December, which is our Independence Day, to commemorate the dead and especially those who died in the wars in which Finland fought to keep its independence. As you can see, the Finns are very respectable towards the dead.