Getting a lump of coal for Christmas? It could be worse, some might get a visit from Krampus.

If the kids  are whining about the lump of coal they received for misbehaving on Christmas, just remind them, it could be worse.  They could receive a beating, have their internal organs ripped from their bellies, or be tortured and eaten alive in hell.

Krampus and saint nicholas visit a Viennese home in 1896

Krampus

From the Germanic word krampen, meaning “claws”, Krampus is a demonic character with long horns and a goat-like beard that closely resembles the image of Satan.  Throughout the year Santa Claus works on his list of children who are being naughty and nice. He rewards the children who behave with candy and presents. Krampus is the henchman who will tag along with Old St. Nick to take care of the naughty ones by stuffing them in his bag and taking them to hell to be tortured and then eaten or let them off lightly by beating them with a tree branch.

Mikuláš_a_Krampus_1900s

Origins

The folklore behind Krampus has no known origins.  Some folklorists are suggesting that it has Pre-Christian origins.  St. Nicholas became popular in the German culture around the eleventh century.  The celebrations consisting of adults wearing devilish masks parading in the streets during the winter holidays have been taking place in Germany since the 16th century.  The Krampus tradition is practiced in several regions including Austria, Bavaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Northern Italy, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Folklorists are postulating that Krampus was assimilated from pagan roots into Christian customs of traditional winter ceremonies.  A very similar entity was being worshiped by pagans in the areas that reside in the region of the Alps. The name of this deity goes by the name of Perchta.

Peruehty_Perchten 1910

Perchta

From the folklore of Bavaria and Austria, Perchta was believed to roam around the countryside of the Alps accompanied by evil spirits of winter.  Sometime around midwinter, Perchta would enter homes during the night when everyone was asleep and reward well behaved children with a small silver coin in their shoe or pail.  The naughty ones would have their bellies slit open and have their internal organs ripped out. Their empty bellies would then be stuffed with straw and pebbles. Perchta was believed to be a god-like creature half-man and half-woman, usually portrayed as a woman, that would protect the people of the Alps from the evil spirits that traveled with her.

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A person dressed as Krampus at Morzger Pass, Salzburg (Austria) 2008.

Perchta  vs. Krampus Celebrations

Perchta and Krampus celebrations still occur to this day.  Even though It has been difficult for people to tell the difference between the two, there are some differences.  The Krampus celebrations still occur in the regions of the Alps in Europe and have managed to cross the Atlantic into American culture.  Adults dress up in Krampus outfits with masks resembling the devil with a tongue sticking out. They would carry chains and bells jingling them while on their processions.  They would also carry and whip tree branches at onlookers of the parade and chase the spectators down the streets in terror. Krampus is the yang to the yin of Santa Claus and only serves the purpose of punishing the wicked.

The celebrations of Perchta are traditionally still performed in small towns and villages in Austria.  The Adults would wear similar fur covered outfits, like Krampus, but the masks that resemble the devil do not have their tongues sticking out.  Perchta is a figure that protects the people from evil and is also a giver of wealth to the good and holds the naughty ones accountable.

Final Thoughts…

Due to social progress throughout the years, Krampus is now known for gifting bundles of sticks or giving a lump of coal to the naughty children.  Who would have thought that beating your children with a stick, condemning them to hell, or threatening to have their innards replaced with hay and pebbles while they were asleep could leave a permanent emotional scar?  How is that lump of coal sounding now?

From the Weird and the Odd,

Happy Holidays!

A 1900's greeting card

References

Billock, J. (2015, December 04). The Origin of Krampus, Europe’s Evil Twist on Santa. Retrieved November 3, 2018, from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/krampus-could-come-you-holiday-season-180957438/

Fear the Austrian Perchten: Pagan Traditions in the Alps, Part I. (n.d.). Retrieved November 3, 2018, from http://www.tourmycountry.com/austria/perchtenpagancustom1.htm

Perchta. (2018, August 31). Retrieved November 3, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perchta

Lut, K. (2018, October 19). Krampus – another folk tradition being exploited? Retrieved November 3, 2018, from https://thinkglobalheritage.wordpress.com/2018/10/19/krampus-another-folk-tradition-being-exploited/

Zimmerman, J. (2017, December 07). 9 Facts About Krampus, St. Nick’s Demonic Companion. Retrieved November 3, 2018, from http://mentalfloss.com/article/71999/9-facts-about-krampus-st-nicks-demonic-companion

Krampus. (2018, October 12). Retrieved November 3, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krampus

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The Origins of Christmas

christmas-tree-with-candles

Family and friends gathering together on a day of exchanging gifts, eating themselves to food stupers, laughing and singing, and getting blitzed on grandma’s eggnog, are just some of the traditions that have been around long before the concept of commercialism.

Winter Solstice

Various cultures have been celebrating the shortest day of the year on the northern hemisphere for thousands of centuries.  Pagans in the Scandinavian regions a.k.a Vikings, would have fire festivals to encourage the sun to return and to pay tribute to Thor.  Yule; depending on the year of the Gregorian calendar, was and currently celebrated sometime between December 21 to 23.  A Yule or Juul log would be brought into the home and burned in the fireplace.  Pouring wine on the log to add a sweet smell when burning or adding other chemicals onto the log to give the flame a certain color became part of the traditions of Yule.  The log would be burned until there were nothing but ashes and then collected. Some people would throw the ashes out onto their fields for good luck.  Others would keep the yule log ashes as a charm or use them for medicine.  Sometimes a piece of the log that remained from the fire would be kept for goodluck and used for next years celebration as kindling.  The Yule tradition lives on even today in Europe and North America.

yule-log-tree-budnik-serbian-church-local-tradition

Saturnalia

The Romans celebrated the Winter Solstice by honoring Saturnus the god of agriculture, liberation, and time.  Saturnus was the inspiration behind the naming of the planet Saturn and also Saturday.  During the celebration of Saturnalia laws were ignored and slaves were temporarily freed.  Drinking, singing and gambling became open in the public view with no fear of getting busted by the authorities.  Orgies, feasts, gift giving, and sacrifices were also common traditions during the festivities.  Cookies shaped as humans were baked and given as presents that would be later consumed by the recipients.  The statue of Saturnus would be unbound from its woolen shackles connecting it to its base and carried through the streets of Rome and placed in a public courtyard while the public wines and feasts to celebrate the liberated god that is amongst them.  

saturnalia

The festival started off with a tradition known as the “Lord of Misrule”.  The leaders of the Roman communities would select a criminal or slave and free them.  They would allow them to sit at their table as an honored guest and wine and dine them.  At the end of the festival the honored guest would be sacrificed as a representation of vanquishing evil from society.  How much of this practice is true or was even commonly practiced is uncertain.  However, one of my sources stated that Gaius Petronius Arbiter; a Roman courtier during the reign of Nero, wrote about an incident that involved a slave who was allowed to sit at the table of his masters.  After heavy consumption of alcohol the slave started to mock emperor Nero and the slave’s master joined in and encouraged his impudence.  Towards the end of the dinner party, the master and his guests circled the slave and brutally murdered the foolish man for acting like the emperor.

Saint Nicholas

Also known as “Nikolaos of Myra”, was a fourth century Greek Orthodox saint who was born in Asia Minor, now known as Turkey.  Nicholas was born into a well-to-do christian family.  His parents died from an epidemic and Nicholas inherited a great fortune.  Nicholas was then raised by his uncle and the Greek Orthodox church and became highly educated.  Later becoming an ordained priest himself,  St. Nicholas developed a strong reputation for being a generous and kind man.  

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Legend has it, a very poor man had three daughters who were going to be forced into prostitution due to their father not having any money to pay dowries towards potential husbands.  Once Nicholas got wind of this, Nicholas visited the man’s home and threw in a bag of gold coins through an open window to pay for the eldest daughter’s dowry.  Later Nicholas came back to do the same thing for the other two daughters.  The poor man caught Nicholas in the act the third time and was so grateful, even under Nicholas’s advisement not to,  the poor man announced to the public about Nicholas’s kindness and generosity.  St.  Nicholas’s acts of kindness spread greater than the own man’s deeds themselves and later ended up making him the Patron Saint of Children and Sailors.

The Nativity of Jesus

The discussion of Jesus’s birth didn’t appear until after 200 years of his persecution. The telling of Jesus’s birth originated from  the gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Neither gospels mentioned a date or the year of Jesus’s birth.  The first date that was documented was from Clement of Alexandria and he stated that Jesus’s birthdate was on Pachon 25 (May 20th).  Other religious scholars have placed the date on March 21, April 15, April 20, and April 21.  It wasn’t until around the fourth century when Pope Julius I set the date on December 25th.  The first staged nativity scene occurred on Christmas Eve night in a town of Greccio, Italy in 1223.  St. Francis of Assisi was inspired to create the live nativity scene due to his disgust with the greed and materialism that plagued Italy.  It was to serve as a reminder that Jesus didn’t come to us a rich king but as a poor child.

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The First Christmas Tree

Germany has been credited of starting the Christmas tree tradition sometime during the 16th century.  It is believed that Martin Luther, a renegade catholic priest who became a Protestant reformer, was the first to add lighted candles to a tree.  Supposedly Martin Luther was walking home one night and was bewildered by the stars in the sky twinkling behind the backdrop of the evergreen trees in the forest.  According to the story, Martin Luther chopped a tree down and brought it to his house.  He set the tree up inside his home decorated the tree with the first homemade wired set of candle holders.  Martin Luther wanted to share his previous experience in the woods with his family by lighting the candles that were draped around the tree that represented the twinkling stars in the heavens.

christmas-tree-with-candles

References

Understanding the Nativity Scene. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://archstl.org/stewardship/page/understanding-nativity-scene

Nuwer, R. (2012, December 14). The First Nativity Scene Was Created in 1223. Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/the-first-nativity-scene-was-created-in-1223-161485505/

Saturn – God of Agriculture – Crystalinks. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.crystalinks.com/saturnrome.html

Haskell, C. (n.d.). How to Celebrate Yule With a Pagan Family. Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://thestir.cafemom.com/baby/113242/how_to_celebrate_yule_with

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from https://bible.org/article/should-christians-celebrate-christmas

History.com Staff. (2009). History of Christmas Trees. Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas-trees

St. Nicholas to Santa: The Surprising Origins of Mr. Claus. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131219-santa-claus-origin-history-christmas-facts-st-nicholas/

St. Nicholas – Saints & Angels. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=371

(n.d.). St. Nicholas, Santa Claus & Father Christmas on whychristmas?com. Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/fatherchristmas.shtml

The Winter Solstice – Yule Lore. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from https://wicca.com/celtic/akasha/yule.htm

December Solstice Customs. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/december-solstice-customs.html

Saturnalia. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/calendar/saturnalia.html

The Origins of Christmas. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.findingdulcinea.com/news/history/2009/Origins-of-Christmas.html

Origin of Christmas | The history of Christmas and how it began. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christmas_TheRealStory.htm

Auletta, K. (n.d.). The Most Unique Christmas Traditions Around The World. Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/24/world-christmas-tradition_n_4479333.html