Happy Krampusnacht. I hope you've been good!
Happy Krampusnacht, or maybe I should say, “Lock the doors and hide your children.” The bad ones anyway. Krampus is interested in kids who have been naughty, not nice.
Krampus night is the evening before St. Nicholas Day, but the dark, edgy Krampus is known to hang out with the more laid back St. Nick. Maybe a case of good cop, bad cop? Or is he the evil enforcer ready to scare kids into good behaviour?
I learned about Krampus while watching the TV series, Grimm. Their Christmas special that year, featured the hairy, horned and fanged beast. If you’re looking for it, it’s Season 3 “The Twelve Days of Krampus”. Last year, I picked up a bottle of Krampus beer as a stocking stuffer for my daughter's fiancé. The beer was as dark as the figure of Krampus on the label, but it was very tasty.
The Krampus legend dates back to 12th century alpine German-speaking Europe. The word comes from the German verb krampus meaning to claw. It’s possible Krampus may have been the son of the Norse god, Hel, lord of the underworld.
Back before the advent of spying elves, and gentle warnings of, "You better be good. Santa is coming," kids were told, “Be careful. Krampus is coming. If you are naughty, he will beat you with sticks, put you in a bag and take you away!”
In Austria, some houses sported year-round bundles of birch sticks hung on the wall as a gentle reminder that Krampus has a long memory. If bad behaviour could lead to a visit from Krampus, I would be making sure that I was very good. A visit to Krampus just doesn't have the same meaning as a trip to see Santa at the mall.
When Krampus comes to town, he doesn’t enter quietly. He stomps into town rattling chains and clanging bells, before swooping down on the bad children, switching them with birch sticks, popping them into his basket and sweeping them away to the underworld.
And the good children? Well, St. Nicholas arrives the next day and leaves presents in the boots they set outside their doors. For the not-so-good children? Things are a bit different for the naughty kids that Krampus failed to capture. They end up with a lump of coal, and a bundle of birch sticks stuffed in their boot. Do you think they get the not-so-subtle threat?
Today Krampusnacht is celebrated all over the world. Krampus runs are huge crowd pleasers, taking place in many cities and towns. Participants dress like Krampus, grab their switches and head out to punish bad children and naughty parents alike. A word to the wise, if you plan on going, wear padded pants. Some of those Krampus lookalikes take their role seriously.
Carol Kinnee, author
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