The past few years I have been more and more intrigued by the Legend of Krampus and how such an ugly, nasty and scary beast is such a prominent part of German Christmas tradition. When I talk about Krampus, people often ask, “Isn’t he the German Christmas Devil?” or “Is it Santa’s evil twin?” …. mmm… not quite. Here is a great little article from National Geographic that clearly explains the legend of Krampus.
The mythical Krampus is meant to whip children into being nice. By Tanya Basu, National Geographic
Krampus, whose name is derived from the German word krampen, meaning claw, is said to be the son of Hel in Norse mythology. The legendary beast also shares characteristics with other scary, demonic creatures in Greek mythology, including satyrs and fauns.
The legend is part of a centuries-old Christmas tradition in Germany, where Christmas celebrations begin in early December.
Krampus was created as a counterpart to kindly St. Nicholas, who rewarded children with sweets. Krampus, in contrast, would swat “wicked” children and take them away to his lair.
According to folklore, Krampus purportedly shows up in towns the night before December 6, known as Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night. December 6 also happens to be Nikolaustag, or St. Nicholas Day, when German children look outside their door to see if the shoe or boot they’d left out the night before contains either presents (a reward for good behavior) or a rod (bad behavior).
A more modern take on the tradition in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic involves drunken men dressed as devils, who take over the streets for a Krampuslauf—a Krampus Run of sorts, when people are chased through the streets by the “devils.”
Why scare children with a demonic, pagan monster? Maybe it’s a way for humans to get in touch with their animalistic side.
Such impulses may be about assuming “a dual personality,” according to António Carneiro, who spoke to National Geographic magazine earlier this year about revitalized pagan traditions. The person dressed as the beast “becomes mysterious,” he said.
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Krampus’s frightening presence was suppressed for many years—the Catholic Church forbade the raucous celebrations, and fascists in World War II Europe found Krampus despicable because it was considered a creation of the Social Democrats
But Krampus is making a comeback now, thanks partly to a “bah, humbug” attitude in pop culture, with people searching for ways to celebrate the yuletide season in non-traditional ways. National Geographic has even published a book in German about the devilish Christmas beast.
Krampus fever has hit Chicago hardcore and I’m all about it. I’ll be a vendor at 2 Krampus themed Markets this year: the 3rd Annual Marytr’s Krampusfest in North Center and Krampus Mart at Township in Logan Square.
I’d also like to introduce you to our new holiday buddy, Baby Krampus! A gift from one of my best friends she said, “I saw him in the store and just had to get him for you”. It was love at first sight ❤ Follow along with him on our Instagram page @raredirndl and #BabyKrampus to see what kind of trouble he gets into this season… Elf on a Shelf ain’t got nothin’ on Baby Krampus.
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