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.

800px-Krampus_Morzger_Pass_Salzburg_2008_04

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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