Our Work is Our Play!
So we’ve come to the end of our series of mythological beings, creatures, and heroes, folks. And what better way to end the year with a little bit of Christmas cheer – if you can call it that – with our dear old friend, the Krampus.
The Krampus is a creature primarily known throughout Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, and some of the Scandinavian countries as the cheerful demonic companion of dear old Saint Nick – and yes, you did read that correctly. This is the gleefully heralded Christmas demon. He’s described as an immense and hairy creature, sporting darkly colored fur, large horns, and a spade-tipped tail. He is also known to have a long, slimy tongue that lolls out between yellowed fangs, and cloven goat hooves.
On the evening when Saint Nicholas brings presents to the good little children, the Krampus also prowls the streets, searching for the wicked children with a wooden birch whip in one hand, chains in the other, and a basket on his back to carry them in. As he finds his prey, he will stuff them into his basket and take them back to his lair, where they will linger forever. The fate of the children varies among communities. Sometimes, the children will be kept as slaves for the Krampus, forced to sleep among heaps of coal and suffer beatings from his chains or his whips. Other times, the children will be eaten in a myriad assortment of ways – raw, boiled, broiled, roasted, fried, even chopped into soup. And on occasion, the Krampus will simply amuse himself by killing off the naught children in creative ways until he runs out of victims, at which point it will be time for him to wander out again and bring back a new batch of brats to “play” with. A softer version of the Krampus myth, however, simply has him going about to bad little boys and girls and gifting them with bundles of coal and a good switching. This variation may be due to more Western influences on European culture, which doesn’t seem to respond well to a Christmas demon. I wonder why that is…
And yet, for such a dark and frightening figure, the Krampus is remarkably popular amongst the people. He even has his own special holiday. Krampusnacht is a festival held the evening before St. Nick goes out to the sweet little children of the world bearing gifts for the good of mankind. Usually on this night, party-goers will dress themselves up as the Krampus in intricate, full-body costumes and masks and run amok on the streets, frightening the children that pass them by as they participate in the Krampuslauf, or the Krampus Run. This is a simple running amok in the streets performed by (typically intoxicated) masked citizens, dressed up as the Krampus or other demons and witches that plague children’s nightmares, with the aim of frightening as many adults and kids as possible. Some even run about with lit torches, to further add to the demonic aspect of this midnight parade.
The Krampus is also well known for his holiday greeting cards – and yes, I am being serious. They are known as Krampuskarten, and they usually feature our favorite wintery devil in some drawing or painting torturing children, often accompanied by the phrase “Greetings from the Krampus!” or some humorous little ditty or poem. Some cards feature him in a silly light, while others are very dark and disturbing – there are even some that are quite dirty, showcasing the Krampus chasing after scantily-clad adults (of both genders) or even engaging in intercourse with said individuals. I guess some people in Austria really do like being naughty.
Nowadays, the Krampus is expanding his empire, and coming over seas to more and more American cities. He’s appearing in more TV shows, Christmas cards, and even some holiday specials. Why? Who’s to say. But I for one welcome our demonic new Christmas overlord. At the very least, I can ply him off of dragging me away – according to some stories, the Krampus has a certain fondness for schnapps. Thank Dagon I’m 21.
And that, ladies, gentlemen, and variations thereof, is my final post for Myth Madness. I hope you all have enjoyed my addition to this blog with creepy crawlies and ghost stories and a slew of monsters in between – I know I have. Have a wonderful holiday this December, and Happy Winter Solstice. It’s been a fantastic experience scaring you all.