The holiday season is mostly replete with saccharine sentiment and cheerful merriment. It's considered a time of celebration, family warmth, generosity and gratitude. But what about some of the darker, more sinister Christmas traditions and folklore? Well, admittedly, North America has contributed only joyful themes and heavy commercialism to the holidays, while Europe has a much darker and more layered Christmas past.
In German-speaking Alpine folklore, Krampus is a horned, beastly figure who punishes misbehaving children during the Christmas season. Krampus starkly contrasts good old Saint Nicholas, who, as we all know, rewards well-behaved kiddies with gifts. Regions in Austria feature similar figures and, more widely, Krampus is one of a number of Saint Nick's companions in regions of Italy, Bavaria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, and the Czech Republic. The origin of the figure is unclear, but some folklorists and anthropologists have postulated a pre-Christian origin for the figure.
Traditional parades in which young men dress as Krampus, such as the Krampuslauf (English: Krampus run), occur annually in most Alpine towns. Krampus is even featured on holiday greeting cards called Krampuskarten.
The history of the Krampus figure has been theorized as stretching back to pre-Christian traditions. In a brief article discussing the figure, published in 1958, Maurice Bruce wrote:
There seems to be little doubt as to his true identity for, in no other form is the full regalia of the Horned God of the Witches so well preserved. The birch—apart from its phallic significance—may have a connection with the initiation rites of certain witch-covens; rites which entailed binding and scourging as a form of mock-death. The chains could have been introduced in a Christian attempt to 'bind the Devil' but again they could be a remnant of pagan initiation rites.
Check out the video below for more info on Krampus:
If you've seen the 2015 horror film Krampus, then you'll recognize the animated tale below. It's an imaginative depiction of what a child might expect from an encounter with the Christmas beast. Very spooky and mysterious!
If you're a fan of horror films, go ahead and watch Krampus this holiday season. It has a great cast, dark humor, and and genuinely freaky moments!
Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comment section below. Happy holidays, and may you be ever safe from cold grip of Krampus!