Santa is a pretty creepy fellow, when you stop and think about it. He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good (so be good for goodness sakes!) and keeps a record of your activities on a “naughty” or “nice” list. As if all of that weren’t bad enough, he invades your home once a year via your chimney (or if you’re like me and don’t have a chimney, he uses a magic key to open your front door –this was my mom’s response to my panicked childhood questions when it dawned on me that Santa had no obvious point of ingress into our house) and leaves you gifts. Dunno about you, but that screams “stalker” and “pervert” to me.
As bad as all of that is, in Austria and other East European countries, the Santa story takes a turn for the horrific. You see, in those countries Santa is only responsible for rewarding the good little girls and boys. He leaves the naughty children to his very special helper–Krampus, the Christmas Demon!
Krampus goes by various names depending on the country you’re talking about, but for the sake of easy spelling I’m going with the simpler spelling/pronunciation of the name. He is depicted in different ways depending upon the country of origin, but in general he is represented as a satyr-like man beast with the cloven hoofs and horns of a goat, a body covered in dark hair, and a lolling tongue. He carries a whip and often is depicted with a basket or a bath tub on his back, which he uses to alternately take naughty children to his lair to be the main course for Christmas dinner, or he skips dinner and takes naughty little Bobby or Sue straight to Hell to burn for all eternity.
Christmas in East Europe is pretty intense, as you can see.
Another fun facet of this bit of Christmas cheer is Krampusnacht, where young men dress up as the demon and go on what amounts to a drunken night on the town –they terrorize local children and can only be bought off with schnaps and treats. So it basically becomes an adult trick – or – treat in December.
I don’t know about you, but I think we need to inject a little of Krampus’ version of Christmas cheer into the American tradition. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a cackling demon following Santa around the mall, terrifying the children into being “nice” for a change? Our society is a little too safe and a little too clean. Everything has been tamed and sanitized and made safe. We don’t acknowledge the dark side that lives within us, that side that revels in the weird and the macabre. I see Krampus as a celebration of that wild inner spirit we (many time rightly) keep chained up within us.
There seem to be a lot of people who agree with me. Krampus is being introduced into Christmas celebrations in many countries, and even in some cities here in the United States. I say bring on the demon and inject a little devilish fun into the Holiday season!
What do you think? Would you incorporate Krampus into your Christmas celebrations?