Thursday, January 1, 2015

The 12 Scares of Christmas: Krampus

Tonight, we continue a seasonal series, exploring the darker side of Christmas. In this season of the darkest nights of the year and ancient traditions celebrating the passing of the season, those of us who are lucky enough to have haunted hearts appreciate the darker, creepy and sometimes terrifying aspects of the winter holiday-- some of which could not be more a part of the Christmas holiday in their own right.

There could be no other choice for the 12 Scare of Christmas. Krampus, the horned one of Christmas, bringing terror to the hearts of children at Christmastime for generations. And, if we haunted hearts are very good, generations more to come. 

 In German speaking folklore, Krampus has long held high court over Christmas. Some have even theorized that this devil-creature dates back to pre-Christian traditions. Although Krampus as a legend has no direct ties to the horned one, also known as Satan himself, the resemblance is uncanny, and one can clearly see the devil's influence on Krampus.

 The main idea behind the legend of Krampus is that he comes in the winter to punish bad children. Krampus often, like Marley's Ghost, carries chains he rattles, along with bells to create a commotion and scare. Krampus carries birch branches, which he uses to beat bad children-- much like Belsnickel. But Krampus goes much further than Belsnickel in his punishment of the bad children. Krampus is often shown with a sack or a washtub on his back-- in which he will take away the bad children to beat, to drown or take them back to Hell.

 In more modern times, the tradition of Krampusnacht, which takes place in Alphine communities on December 6. On Krampusnacht, Saint Nicholas travels with Krampus-- Nicholas, rewarding the good children; and Krampus punishing, or at least terrifying, the bad.

 For the nearly countless generations that Krampus has existed in legend, he appears to finally in our modern times be getting his due. On the sheer strength of how brutally terrifying his myth is, a modern pop culture interest has continued to gain traction in recent years. With a film on its way later this year, based on the popular recent novel "Krampus: The Yule Lord" by author Brom, Krampus is every dark this time of year.

 And we wouldn't have it any other way.

Krampus, from "Krampus: The Yule Lord" 

Photo Credit One: The Atlantic

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