Germanic, Alpine Folklore
Dec 5th; 6-7th Century orally; 16th Century written
Yes, as in that scary movie critter. Not everything during winter season is designed to bestow miracles, gifts, or good weather. Krampus is the original bedtime story, be good or else the boogeyman is coming concept. A large devilish creature that seemed half-goat and half-demon whose name meant “dead” or “rotten” was the perfect monster to get those rotten children to behave. He thrashes chains about, is hairy, black as night, with cloven hooves, and his pointed tongue lolls out of his mouth. And don’t forget the fangs! And no, he’s not a Pooka! Krampus either aimed to scare them into behaving or punished the bad. Recent variations have twisted him into something far more terrifying! Though there are many festivals during this time of the year including the Krampaslauf or Krampus run still common place in Alpine towns. Sadly, like many oral traditional tales and creatures, much of Krampus’ pre-Christian origins have been lost and muddled. Folks have even dubbed him the “anti-Santa Clause.” Know that tonight, Dec 5th, Saint Nick and his co-worker Krampus will be paying everyone a visit. I hope you haven’t been naughty, though a wave of monster-lover reads over on booktok have other plans when Krampus brings out the switches… O_O
When the Christianized version took hold in the 16th century, the story changed to one of intrigue. He was Saint Nicholas’ traveling companion? Santa Claus’ assistant or co-worker? Talk about the ultimate bad cop, good cop routine just in time for Christmas. Regardless, as one handed out oranges and chocolates, this guy was giving out birch wood switches, stuffing kids in his satchel for later consumption, and more. In some stories he was said to take these children to hell early or somewhere to drown. Other stories says he lugs you over his lap and swats or spanks children. The storybook illustrations of Krampus are a wonder to behold. During the 1950’s many movements aimed to remove this “evil man” from holiday traditions and at one point brought the legend to near extinction in places he formerly had festivals. In present day, one will always find Krampus (and his fellow Krampi? Krampuses?) wondering the conventions floors bringing wicked smiles to fan’s faces. Other than this, he’s the most interesting figure I’ll cover, but a modern times fan favorite as he’s rooted himself very well in pop culture. In fact, would these two simply be the original version of Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens with how demon Crowley and angel Aziraphale being best buds?