Freshly-baked Christmas cookies can be so tempting! The sugary morsels, specially-decorated for the holidays are so inviting that it is almost impossible to resist the urge to sneak one or two. After all, what’s the worst that can happen if you do?
In South Africa, if you ask a child what can happen to naughty cookie thieves, be prepared for a look of wide-eyed horror, accompanied by fearful glances in all directions. What is the cause of the child’s fright? Apparently, you don’t know about Danny, the most famous — and feared — of all Christmas cookie thieves.
Your childhood memories of Christmas might include hearing stories of Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, or the Grinch who stole Christmas. In South Africa, children are told about Danny.
Danny was a young boy who came across his grandmother’s freshly-baked Christmas cookies. She sternly warned him that the cookies were not to be touched. Some of them were to be left for Santa, and the rest were to be enjoyed on Christmas Day.
Danny just couldn’t get those yummy-looking treats out of his mind. He knew he wasn’t supposed to touch them, but maybe he could get away with taking just a few and no one would notice. He knew that getting caught meant that he would have to face his grandmother, but let’s face it — grandmothers are sweet, kindly, and can never remain cross for very long.
Danny couldn’t resist temptation any longer. When Grandma’s back was turned, he gobbled up some cookies. His disobedience did not go unnoticed. His grandmother discovered Danny’s cookie thievery, and she was very, very disappointed in him.
It is undisputed that the old woman was proud of her baked goods, but she also loved her grandson. When weighing the two, it is blindingly obvious which was the more important.
So, naturally, she grabbed and stick and began to mercilessly pummel Danny, beating him about the head and shoulders, pouring out all of her rage and hatred over her grandson’s thoughtless thievery. Grandma did not relent in meting out justice until Danny lay at her feet in a bloody pulp, as dead as the Christmas turkey.
In her defense, possibly Grandma’s eyes were clouded by cataracts, and she thought she was whacking Caga Tió.
Whatever the reason for the decidedly-unchristmaslike response from Grandma, Danny definitely learned his lesson. Unfortunately, it was too late to save him in this life. He decided to put his experience to good use, however, by living on as a ghost.
The ghost of Danny now spends the holiday season wandering around and looking for naughty children — particularly those who would be so evil as to snag a Christmas cookie without permission. Those who do so run the risk of having Danny haunt their homes throughout the days of Christmas, scaring them into learning the lesson he had to learn the hard way.
Keep this in mind the next time you are tempted to swipe a Christmas cookie. That seemingly-harmless act could do more than haunt you the next time you step on your bathroom scales; you might find yourself being haunted by Danny.
Of course, it could be worse. You could be forced to host Danny’s grandmother for the holidays.