Sunday, December 29, 2013

Merry Krampus

The threat of coal on Christmas morning is just not good enough to ensure a year of good behavior from a child. Luckily, an old Germanic folklore story provides tremendous back-up. It suggests threatening your kid with their impending death of getting dragged to a lair by a demonic satyr and being drowned. That ought to do it. Krampus, a beast whose story possibly stretches back to pre-Christian traditions, became increasingly popular in 17th century Europe. He is the ying to Santa Claus' yang. Santa takes care of the good kids and Krampus will "take care" of the bad ones.

Krampus is depicted with dark hair, cloven hooves, horns, and a long tongue. He is often carrying chains (to bind the kids) (also believed to symbolize the binding of the Devil by the Christian Church), a bundle of birch branches (to beat the kids), a sack (to transport the kids to Hell), and a washtub (to drown/eat the kids).

Believed to have originated from paganism, Krampus went through its share of persecution in the 20th century. The idea of Krampus was prohibited in Austria in the 1930's and in the 1950's the government distributed pamphlets titled, "Krampus is an Evil Man." The legend of Krampus has since developed into a winter tradition. Greeting cards are exchanged (Krampuskarten) and on the night of December 6th (the Feast of St. Nicholas) people dress up as Krampus and roam the streets (Krampusnacht).

Santa's devilish companion only surfaces once a year, BUT in some households, a bundle of birch sticks are painted gold and displayed year round in the house as a constant reminder to any child that Krampus is always watching.