The Dark Side of Kris Kringle
Christmas is not all about decking the halls and joy to the world. St. Nick’s “dark servant” (no elf is he), who goes by the name Krampus, is a hairy, horned, supernatural beast whose pointed ears and long, slithering tongue give the naughty something to think twice about. St. Nikolaus (a.k.a. Mr. Klaus) rewarded good children, but the little baddies found Krampus slithering down the chimney. Don’t worry you American and Western European kids, Krampus is mostly found in Northern and Eastern Europe—Germany, Austria, Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and northern Italy. Hmmmmm.
In Old High German, Krampus suggests the word for claw (Krampen). Traditionally, young men dress as the Krampus in the first two weeks of December, particularly on the evening of December 5th, and administer corporal punishment with a birch rod. Images of Krampus usually show him carrying away naughty tykes to the bowels of Hell. How can a truly benevolent Santa allow this to happen? The old boy had yet to be commercialized into the symbol of consumption when the mythic Krampus was conceived.
In any case, in the spirit of a balanced holiday, where the naughty-and-nice dialectic prevails, why shouldn’t there be a downer in our midst? And to make that clear to the baddies in your extended family, Monte Beauchamp has edited and Last Gasp has published the Krampus Greeting Card collection ($19.95) just in time for this holiday season (check out this video). As Beauchamp notes, “this is the perfect gift for a naughty friend.” Order yours here, and remember there’s Noel in Krampus.