Wednesday, December 10, 2014

You better watch out, You better not cry, You better not pout, I'm telling you why........


Santa Claus is Coming to Town -

Wait a minute, that isn't Santa...oh no! Its...its.........its......


That is right it is Krampus. Wait, who is Krampus? I thought we tell kids if they are naughty then it is Santa that brings them lumps of coal and a budle of switches? That is true that parents may tell kids that Santa is the one that punishes them when they have misbehaved all year, but that wasn't always the case.

Krampus is a goat-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Christmas season who had misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards well-behaved ones with gifts. Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children and drag them off into the black forest.

Krampus is represented as a beast-like creature, generally demonic in appearance. The creature has roots in Germanic folklore. Traditionally young men dress up as the Krampus in Austria, Romania, southern Bavaria, South Tyrol, northern Friuli, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia during the first week of December, particularly on the evening of 5 December (the eve of Saint Nicholas Day on many church calendars), and roam the streets frightening children with rusty chains and bells. Krampus is featured on holiday greeting cards called Krampuskarten. There are many names for Krampus, as well as many regional variations in portrayal and celebration.

Krampus is seen as the dark companion of St. Nicholas, the traditional European winter gift-bringer who rewards good children each year on December 6. The kindly old Saint leaves the task of punishing bad children to the hell-bound counterpart The Horned Devil, also known as Krampus.

Krampus is celebrated on Krampusnacht (Krampus night), which takes place on the eve of St. Nicholas' Day. In Austria, Northern Italy and other parts of Europe, party-goers masquerade as devils, wild-men, and witches to participate in Krampuslauf (Krampus Run). Intoxicated and bearing torches, costumed devils caper and carouse through the streets terrifying child and adult alike. Krampusnacht is increasingly being celebrated in other parts of Europe such as Finland and France, as well as in many American cities.

December 6 also happens to be Nikolaustag, or St. Nicholas Day, when German children look outside their door to see if the shoe or boot they'd left out the night before contains either presents (a reward for good behavior) or a rod (bad behavior). Before that however, children must make it through Krampus night.

A person participating in a modern Krampus Run - running thru the village to frighten misbehaved children

Krampus, whose name is derived from the German word krampen, meaning claw, is said to be the son of Hel in Norse mythology. The legendary beast also shares characteristics with other scary, demonic creatures in Greek mythology, including satyrs and fauns.

The history of the Krampus figure has been theorized as stretching back to pre-Christian traditions. In a brief article discussing the figure, published in 1958, Maurice Bruce wrote:

"There seems to be little doubt as to his true identity for, in no other form is the full regalia of the Horned God of the Witches so well preserved. The birch -- apart from its phallic significance -- may have a connection with the initiation rites of certain witch-covens; rites which entailed binding and scourging as a form of mock-death. The chains could have been introduced in a Christian attempt to 'bind the Devil' but again they could be a remnant of pagan initiation rites." *

*Bruce, Maurice (March 1958). "The Krampus in Styria". Folklore 69 (1): 44--47.

Krampus and Saint Nicholas visit a Viennese home in 1896.

Krampus's frightening presence was suppressed for many years --- the Catholic Church forbade the raucous celebrations, and fascists in World War II Europe found Krampus despicable because it was considered a creation of the Social Democrats.

In the aftermath of the 1934 Austrian Civil War, the Krampus tradition was prohibited by the Dollfuss regime under the Fatherland's Front (Vaterlandische Front) and the Christian Social Party. In the 1950s, the government distributed pamphlets titled "Krampus is an Evil Man". Towards the end of the century, a popular resurgence of Krampus celebrations occurred and continues today.

Krampus is making a comeback now, thanks partly to a "bah, humbug" attitude in pop culture, with people searching for ways to celebrate the yuletide season in non-traditional ways. National Geographic has even published a book in German about the devilish Christmas beast.

In the U.S., people are buying into the trend with Krampus parties.

For its part, Austria is attempting to commercialize the harsh persona of Krampus by selling chocolates, figurines, and collectible horns. So there are already complaints that Krampus is becoming too commercialized.

There has been public debate in Austria in modern times about whether Krampus is appropriate for children.

If you think Krampus is bad, watch out for this guy:

Robot Santa Claus doesn't mess around like Krampus does....

For more information on Krampus visit:

Check out my other Winter Holiday Series Articles:

(New for 2014)

(Older Archived posts from 2008)



PART VI ( Christmas becomes Americanized! And Santa Claus is Born!)

PART VII (Today The Sun is (re)born)

(Other aside articles on the Winter Holidays)

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