Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Krampus’ Claws Are Coming To Kill

By Chris Dimick

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… or Santa will order Krampus to molest, beat and drag your crying ass to hell.

That is how “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” would have been sung in old-school Germany, where Jolly St. Nick didn’t take too kindly to naughty boys and girls – and had a demon compadre slave named “Krampus” he could summon to “correct” bad behavior.

Push your brother’s face in dog shit last May? Pelt a painfully shy girl with tampons in the school house locker room?
You’d still get coal in the old times of St. Nicholas/Krampus-belief, though back then it would have been delivered flaming hot and stuffed up your corncob pipe by Krampus.

Among all the promises of peace and love and other such BS spewed during Yule, the tale of Krampus provides some refreshingly horrific undertones to the otherwise joyful season. Friends of horror and horror movies, behold the tale of Krampus – a horror junkie’s quick back alley fix during these days of tinsel, merry wassailing, and those damn annoying Santa hats.

Seems Christmas time wasn’t always just about how much meaningless crap Santa could stuff under your tree. Old-time Santa had a dark side. A Yang to his Ying. Misbehave, and there were dire consequences.

One word, Krampus, could once send Eastern Europe children pissing down their leg and crawling into the nearest wooden beer barrel.
When you think about it, isn’t this a much better way to get kids to behave during the time of Xmas. You do something bad and you don’t just get coal in your stocking; Santa will torture you via a horrible beast!

What the Hell is Krampus?
Here is a brief explanation of just who and what this horny hellion of Christmas is, thanks in part to several random Krampus websites.

Popular in the Alpine regions centuries ago, Krampus (old High German for “claw”) is represented by a black, horned, Gene-Simmons length-tongued, demon looking sadist who accompanies Saint Nicholas on his various travels.

Krampus acts as an anti–Saint Nick, who instead of giving gifts to good children, hands out warnings and punishments to the naughty. Krampus is called from Hell by Santa when he needs some kid’s ass kicked, and Krampus is happy to rise to the occasion.

Santa outsources all his dirty deeds to Krampus, keeping his white gloves free of all that kid blood (Mrs. Claus can only do so much washing). With Krampus handling all the punishment, Santa is free to oversee his elf/slave factories and deliver joy to the worthy.

The practice of wearing masks and scaring people around the Winter Solstice (Dec. 21) was an ancient one for Slavic and Germanic folks, and some scholars feel this tradition carried over into the modern form of Krampus when some in the area converted to Christianity. As St. Nick grew in popularity, people felt he needed a wicked counterpart to teach kids the balance between good and evil. And Krampus was born.

Up until the late 1800s, Krampus even had his own unofficial day with the church-crowd, celebrated Dec. 5 on the Eve of St. Nicolas’s Day.
Krampus Day was and still is traditionally celebrated the first two weeks of December by young (likely wasted) men who dress up as Krampus and roam the streets frightening children and women, usually by clanging rusty chains and bells. In some rural areas the tradition also includes “birching” or canning young females by Krampus-dressed aholes.

Oh My, So Naughty!
While the tradition was mainly regionalized, Krampus had a world-wide resurgence in the 1800s thanks in part to greeting cards that bared his image. From
“As Santa Claus was expanding shop and selling product in mid-1800s America, the holiday greeting card craze exploded in Europe, with printed cards filling mailboxes and post offices each winter.

“In Austria, Germany, and other central and north Europe regions, the figure of Krampus became a focus of attention, with thousands of compelling postcards designed and printed for season's greetings, many emblazoned with "Grüß Vom Krampus" (Greeting from Krampus).

“The peak of the Krampus card craze was from the turn of the century to the beginning of WWI in 1914.
“Obviously Krampus represents the naughty side of the season, as sexual connotations abound in the postcards through suggestive and cheeky images.
While the lurid and transgressive images paraded in the cards are currently suffused with a modern sense of the comic and the surreal, some images seem to embody a genuine touch of primordial fear and dark animism.”

Modern Krampus Comeback
By the late 1800s, the Captain-No-Fun-Church decided Krampus was too wild for their tastes, and both Krampus Day and his celebration were kiboshed almost into oblivion.

However, it seems Krampus is making a recent comeback. Amused by the horrifically graphic drawings of the 1800s postcards, Krampus clubs have begun to spring up in the Austria/Germany area to rekindle the tradition. The Austrian state of Salzburg alone has 180 Krampus clubs, more than half set up since 1990, according to a recent National Geographic article.

Satan Santa’s rise in current popularity might have something to do with the recent neutering of Jolly Saint Nick and his ability to get kids to eat their broccoli around December, according to

“Over the decades Santa Claus seems to have lost his punishing edge,” the website says. “In this age of consumerism there are very few children who receive a lump of coal in their stockings, or a gift of cleaning supplies under the tree. Is not the service that Krampus provides sorely needed in the land of spoiled and dissatisfied children?”

Krampusy Christmas for the Dimicks
There is an RDHP personal connection to the Krampus revival. I’ve made it my personal mission to bring Krampus back in fashion in the U.S. (I’d have help, there are Krampus Celebrations popping up in cities like NYC and San Fran.)

Several years ago a member of the Marysville Dimicks came across one of the 1800s postcards and put it on the fridge around Yule for a “larf.” The card depicted the hideous Krampus riding on a rocking-horse with a terrified German boy, switch in hand and long-red tongue dangling near the boys head (see below).

Naturally, the card was a wild hit with my fam and I (who couldn’t love something that bizarre) and at first we couldn’t believe such a figure would be associated with the typically uptight traditions of a Christian Christmas.

Each year as our family would gather to celebrate the season, more details on Krampus would emerge from various family members who had researched the myth.

Today, in addition to wishing each other a Happy Holidays, the Dimicks also are sure to warn their loved ones to beware Krampus and his antics – some even recanting personal bushes with the horned manimal.

It’s all great advice. After all... just last week I pushed my wife’s face in a pile of dog mess, and I’m seriously considering PELTING that mousy girl who works down the hall with a hail of tampons.
Yikes, I’m probably not going to get that official Red Ryder carbine-action two-hundred-shot range model air rifle I asked Santa, am I?

Well, here I am Krampus, come and whip me.



For Your Holiday Enjoyment,
Random Krampus Pictures and Cards:

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