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Santa & Krampus

"They're checking to see if you are naughty or nice."

Batman had Robin and the Green Lantern»» had the Green Arrow and now I've learned that there is even an older dynamic duo for the Christmas season.

In folklore,»» Krampus was a fairytale book looking devil figure who drove away evil spirits during the Christian holiday season. By tradition, he appeared alongside Santa on December 6, which is the feast of St. Nicholas, and the two are still part of festivities in many parts of central Europe.

Often the subject of winter poems and tales, Krampus, (just one of the folklore companions) travels»» with St. Nicholas or his various equivalents (Father Christmas, Santa Claus), carrying with him a rod, a stick, bundle of switches or a whip, and in modern times often a broom and a sack.

"Do you have the Sack with you"?
I spoke: the Sack, that is here;
because apples, nut and almond core
eat pious children gladly."
"Do you have the rod also with you?"
I spoke: "the rod, it is here;
but for the children, only the bad,
those it meets them right, upon their part."

(translated excerpt of 'Farmhand Ruprecht' by Theodor Storm)

Most often, Krampus is dressed in black rags, bearing a black face and unruly black hair which sounds a lot like a dance club in Los Angels. Krampus are more often represented as horned, shaggy or bestial. In many depictions the Krampus looks like popular images of biblical Devil, complete with red skin, cloven hooves, and horns.

Krampus is alive and well

According to Mannfred Kapper of the Austrian Cultural Forum, the Krampus was originally only an associate to the St. Nicholas story. Nicholas and Krampus would go together to homes. Nicholas gave the good children presents and Krampus would give the bad children a thrashing. But in the last 200 years, Krampus has slowly developed an identity of his own. Today, Krampus is more popular in the Austrian countryside, but the city still belongs to St. Nicholas.

Leave it to the good old noninterventionist and wildly creative USA in the notorious artsy San Francisco to bring forth Krampus Nacht. While this event has already passed I have already set a reminder to keep a look out for it for next year's event. Which supplies provocatively dressed Krampus Maechen female helpers to distribute gifts and features live music, pinball and chocolates. Chocolate?! I am so there!

However, not everyone thinks this is an innocent bit of fun for adults and an old classic folklore tale that can remain as a tamed down bit of fun for children. These traditions which include Santa Claus, came under the spotlight in Austria this year, after reports that Santa, the jolly fellow who brings Christmas joy had been banned from visiting kindergartens in Vienna because he scared some children. Now, a prominent Austrian child psychiatrist is arguing for a ban on Krampus, who still roams towns and villages in early December.

Lively young men wearing deer horns, masks with battery-powered red eyes and looking more like a recycled Halloween»» costume, brandish birchwood rods as they run down the streets, confronting spectators gathered to watch the medieval spectacle, which is also staged in parts of nearby Hungary, Croatia and Germany's Bavaria state. Anyone who doesn't dodge or run away fast enough might get swatted with the rod, although not hard and all in fun holiday cheer.

"The Krampus image is connected with aggression, and in a world that is anyway full of aggression, we shouldn't add figures standing for violence... and hell," child psychiatrist Max Friedrich said.

In that case I've got about 10 politicians that I would also like to ban permanently.

In Gresten, Austria 3,000 people, including many children, packed the kerbs of Dorfstrasse one recent night to await his coming. Anti Krampus listeners of Austrian youth radio station FM4 shared the horror they felt when first confronted the figure. A young Krampus actor in Gresten, defended his role and said most children were fascinated by Krampus's symbolism. "Krampus is for the kids."

A news report stated that sometimes, Krampus characters can get carried away. In some towns in the Tyrol and Salzburg areas, some of the horned Krampus have lost control after downing a few too many beers or schnapps. Wait? You mean beer and hard liquor can make people act strangely? Maybe that explains the actions of the 10 politicians that I would like to permanently ban.

Supposedly, one European festival / festivities include a fully costumed Krampus knocking on doors where children live. When the parents open the doors, the Krampus run in and terrify the naughty children with his switch and growls. Then, with the children's shrieks still hanging in the air, the parents invite the Krampus to sit down for drinks. Can a winter festival get any better than that? I think not.

Krampusnacht is rapidly gaining celebrants in the US and across the world. December 6th is the celebrated Krampus night festivals...

Krampus is coming to America to pick up the slack for Santa. So be warned, it's not just Santa who is watching, it's Krampus "He's checking to see if you are naughty or nice."

Art for life»»


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