Belsnickles are prized Christmas collectible figures that were made in Germany from the 1870’s until the time of World War I. The name is derived from Pelz Nichol, or fur-dressed Santa, and was changed to Belsnickle by German immigrants in the United States. Some of these figures were candy containers and other, larger versions were sold as store window display pieces to attract shoppers at Christmas. Belsnickles were usually made of papier mâché or chalk. They were molded with characteristics which included a stern face and one arm holding a feather tree sprig or switches to punish naughty children.
Belsnickles came in a variety of colors, with white being the most common and brown or purple the more difficult to find. They also were made from very small figures of an inch or two in height to rare large ones over two feet tall. The smaller forms can have a metal holder on top of the head for hanging on a tree. Often the figures were decorated with mica as snow. Collectors look for Belsnickles which have unusual features. They may stand on a snowball base or have an unusual hat or head piece such as a crown or wreath. Very rare figures have an open mouth showing teeth or have, instead of a molded or fur beard, one that has been fashioned of glass icicles.