Have you ever wondered why people threaten their children with no presents off Father Christmas if they misbehave?
Whether it’s right or wrong, there are many today who believe that Krampus should return to put the fear of being naughty back into children. I personally disagree with this as terrifying children to the point where they are scared that they’re going to get carted off to Hell for being naughty is unacceptable. I like Christmas to be magical and I also like it to be kept to DECEMBER.
Horror of Christmas
I do associate horror with Christmas, not sure why, but it must be horror films like Black Christmas and the evil spirit of Krampus. In fact, the tale of Scrooge and the odd looking Alistair Simm has always scared me from being a small child. Lately though, I can’t stand the adverts being pushed in my face each time I switch the television on when it’s NOVEMBER. Krampus should come and cart those businesses off to Hell who are purely in it for money and have them scared of turning a magical time of year into an over commercialised money making event.
To celebrate my kind of Christmas, I decided that I would explore the legend of the Krampus and create my version of Santa Krampus with help from my friend Steve the grave digger and here it is!
Origins of Krampus
Pre-dating Christianity, Krampus is the companion of Saint Nicholas otherwise known as Father Christmas/Santa Claus. Celebrations called Krampusnacht/Krampus Night are held on the 5th of December prior to the Feast of Saint Nicholas. Celebrating the Feast of Saint Nicholas on the 6th December became popular during the eleventh century in Germany.
We can trace back origins of Krampus to European practices held tens of thousands of years ago where ancient villagers would dress as animals and mythical figures to parade in and perform comical plays during the winter solstice.
Austrians believe that Krampus derives from a pagan supernatural who was assimilated to the Christian Devil and by the seventeenth century, the Christians have incorporated Krampus into their winter celebrations.
In the nineteenth century, Santa Claus emerged courtesy of the Americans and the celebration of Krampus was developed into a franchise that saw the date change from the 5th of December to the 24th of December. Saint Nicholas lost his white bishop robes, staff and horse. Krampus himself was replaced by a softer Santa Claus punishing the naughty children. No presents for naughty children!
What does Krampus look like?
Krampus is black and hairy with one cloven foot and a long tongue. He can be pictured carrying branches of Birch otherwise known as ruten that he will use occasionally to swat the naughty children with, which is a pagan origin. He also carries chains that are thought to symbolize the binding of the Devil by the Christian Church. He can appear with a sack or a washtub on his back that is used to carry the naughty children away where they will suffer a fate of either drowning, being eaten or transported to Hell.
In more modern traditions and to soften the legend, naughty children will awaken to a lump of coal instead of that one present they have longed for.
Krampusnacht (Krampus Night)
Today in Alpine countries on the night of the 5th of December, Krampus will appear on the streets supplying coal and bundles of ruten to businesses and homes. Sometimes he will be accompanied by Saint Nicholas who will appear as a bishop with a ceremonial staff.
Krampuslauf is a celebrated run where participants dressed as Krampus and other wild pagan spirits of Germanic folklore will participate with flaming torches. It is custom to offer Krampus Schnapps, a strong distilled fruit brandy. Today, these parades where participants love to frighten adults and children alike are often alcohol fuelled and they are celebrated in Northern Italy and Austria. They are becoming very popular in other parts of Europe such as Finland and France and they have now started in many American cities.