Main meanings of belsnickel in English

: belsnickel1Belsnickel2

belsnickel1

Pronunciation /ˈbɛlsnɪkl/

verb

historical North American
  • In certain North American communities, especially those of German origin: to go about merrymaking at Christmas or New Year in disguise, often visiting the houses of neighbours, friends, and relatives to play pranks or beg for small gifts or refreshments.

    This custom perhaps has its origins in adults dressing as, and pretending to be, the ‘Belsnickel’ of Rhineland Christmas folklore for the purpose of entertaining or scaring children.

Origin

Late 19th century; earliest use found in Scribner's Monthly. From Belsnickel.

Main meanings of Belsnickel in English

: belsnickel1Belsnickel2

Belsnickel2

Pronunciation /ˈbɛlsnɪkl/

noun

historical North American
  • 1Also with lower-case initial. In certain North American communities, especially those of German origin: a person who goes about merrymaking at Christmas or New Year in disguise, often visiting the houses of neighbours, friends, and relatives to play pranks or beg for small gifts or refreshments.

    This custom perhaps has its origins in adults dressing as, and pretending to be, the ‘Belsnickel’ of Rhineland Christmas folklore for the purpose of entertaining or scaring children.

  • 2In Rhineland folklore: a menacing and dishevelled figure, dressed in furs and typically carrying a switch, who visits children before Christmas to reward good ones with gifts and punish naughty ones.

    The figure of ‘Belsnickel’ is also preserved in certain North American communities, especially those of German origin, and has variously been interpreted as corresponding or essentially analogous to St Nicholas (or Santa Claus) and as his companion or assistant.

Origin

Early 19th century. From (i) Pennsylvania German Belsnickel.