Pictured to the left are: Thomas Larkins, his daughter, Irene Larkins Risko, granddaughter Doris Wheeler Parker, and great granddaughter Joyce Parker. (Click on the blue links above to read previous blog entries about members of the Larkins family.)
Joyce recalls that her Great Grandpa Tom, Grandma Irene, and her mother Doris used to tell her and her sister Sally and brother Tom about the Belsnickel.
According to Wikipedia, "Belsnickel is the fur-clad Santa of the Palatinate (Pfalz) in northwestern Germany along the Rhine, the Saarland, and the Odenwald region of Baden-Württemberg." By the time Joyce was a child, the name used at their house was "Bellsnickers." The story told to Joyce was that the bellsnickers came around at Christmas time and they were supposed to look in windows, to see if children were in bed on time and if they were being good. Joyce said she was terrified of the bellsnickers, and her big brother Tom would scare her with stories about them.
While Thomas Larkins was Irish on both his mother and his father's side, he married into families with German roots. His first wife was Mary Louise Cross, whose mother Elizabeth Marshall Cross was born in Germany. After the death of Mary Louise, Thomas married Emma Lieke, who was born in Germany in 1875. So while the Larkins family was Irish, the tales they told about Belsnickel/Bellsnickers was most likely from the German traditions of the family of either the first or second wife (perhaps both)of Mr. Larkins.
A visual image of Belsnickel, spelled Pelznickel in this case, is found at the website: http://www.oldeworldsantas.com/pelznickel.htm.