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You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry…Krampus Is Coming To Town!
Is Krampus real?
Krampus is believed to be an anthropomorphic creature with a half-goat, half-demon appearance, who accompanies St. Nicholas on his earthly journey. While St. Nicholas rewards the good children with gifts and sweets, Krampus dispenses punishment to the wicked children who have strayed from the path of good.
Having demonic looking facial & body features and seven foot tall, he carries a pitchfork along with a bundle of birch switches used for beatings of children who have misbehaved (that might be grounds for charges of child abuse nowadays). Evidence of his having visited in town can be seen from a pair of mismatched footprints: one cloven hoof, the other a bear-like claw.
Since Santa knew if you were bad or good (as the song goes and any good hacker of smart home devices knows), if you were bad, he would send his dark partner with the serpentine tail to you house to punish the wicked children. He would beat them with a bundle of birch sticks, whip them with horsehair and throw them into a sack or wicker basket to take them down to hell for a year, releasing them upon their subsequent repentence. It’s funny how that part was left out of the song! This is also a good reason why there is no ‘Krampus’ song itself! It might be fun to attempt writing one, though.
The historical time frame is not agreed upon and a bit sketchy, but is believed that this legend predates Christianity, possibly originating from Norse mythology itself, Krampus believed to be the son of ‘Hel’ (the daughter of ‘Loki’). The name ‘Krampus’ is a derivitive of the German word ‘krampen’ which means ‘claw.’ Krampus Night (Krampusnacht) is the eve on December 5. Children following this tradition would leave their shoes on a window sill at bedtime. The next morning, upon awakening they would find a treat from St. Nicholas, if they had been good. If not, they would find a piece of coal in their shoes. Years ago, with many homes having a coal stoker, that piece of coal was easy to come by. Sometimes a child would find both a treat and a piece of coal in their shoes as a warning that Krampus was watching! Behaving children were excited with anticipation that St. Nicholas would be making his run with presents on December 6 (Nikolaustag), as well as hoping their behavior was not cause for a visit from the Krampus beast.
In World War II Europe, Krampus celebrations were banned for a time by the Catholic Church for being sinful and anti-Christian and in addition, Social Democrats banned the celebrations… politics injecting itself into our everyday lives even back then!!! Eventually, the backlash against the commercialization of Christmas created the path toward characters like Scrooge and the Grinch as a kind of rebellion or protest for holiday spending and good will. Today in Europe, there are popular Krampus festivals and parades, with participants even dressing up as Krampus. Austrians annually celebrate the krampuslauf, when men who often are drunk, dress up as Krampus and chase naughty children around the town. The popularity of Krampus has become extremely marketable to the point that many buy devil horns to go along with their Santa hats, not to mention greeting cards, chocolates and decorations matching the theme. There is even a Krampus museum in Austria.
In keeping with the entertainment industry’s distortion of legends, Krampus has joined the horror culture ranks of the on-the-loose maniacal demonic killer. After all, in today’s world do you believe the thought of a ho-ho-hoing, jolly, heavy set man is going to persuade your child to be nice and not naughty? If you do, I have a deeply discounted seat to sell you on one of R. Keith Andrews’ space trips!
With all this being said, for those of us who may be parents, grandparents, big brothers or sisters, aunts, uncles, friends, etc., the magic of Krampus’ partner, “Santa,” himself is a useful tool to engage the anticipation & excitement of the very young. It is that very excitement that also stirs in a myriad of ways, something deep inside us and satifies our yearning to share and perpetuate it. It is as much a rite of passage for adult as well as child in each its own way.
It is now time to answer the question posed at the beginning of this article as to whether Krampus is real or not. The answer simply stated is “as real as Santa Claus.”
Do you believe?
Merry Christmas, all!