Krampus and St. Nick: How both Figures can Teach us to be Kind and Generous

Happy Krampusnacht or if you celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas.

Christmas time is here! Oh Christmas time, Oh Christmas time. For many and much of the world I know it can be hard to celebrate and why should we with Covid-19, Lock downs, high unemployment, people on the verge of losing everything. One could say Joseph where are your priorities, Christmas should be canceled this year.

I say hold on now, let’s not get crazy and remember the reason for season which is Not only the celebration of Jesus our savior but of kindness, generosity towards one another. We are certainty in difficult times, and this will NOT be the last time society and the world suffers at the hands of a health crisis, but we must try to remain positive. I know this year will not be the same, but in hopes that next year will be better.

I particularly like Christmas and I do not at the same time. I like Christmas in the sense of the traditions that we celebrate with the people we love. I don’t particularly like how Christmas is one big, commercialized time of the year to stick to the man or women to spend spend spend. Now some of you may say well you don’t have to spend money if you don’t want to and although that may be true, its usually a requirement in the United States. I mean how many of us like to receive but when it comes to giving back we decide to close our purse, it doesn’t feel great. 

The other reason is for many years growing up, frankly I can not remember one good Christmas, it seems like one big fog. I do remember those times being very sad and happy as my mother would cook delicious food, there would be presents, but there was always the presents of the Devil (my grandfather) who made the holiday’s unbearable at times.

The Reason for the Season

As a Christian I do know the meaning of the season and I must remember that, but I also like to kind of the sillier things in Christmas like Santa, Elves, Magic, the north pole and all my love for Christmas movies and music.

But one of the figures in Christmas I am quite interested in is Krampus. Having grew up with Santa from a young age, obliviously I would like to believe he is real and in a way he is. Santa or Saint Nicolas was a real figure a 4th century Greek Christian bishop of Myra. Famous for his generous gifts to the poor, in particular presenting three impoverished daughters of pious Christian with dowries so that they would not have to become prostitutes.

He was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity.  Saint Nicolas legend carried on into many different forms throughout the ages from Father Christmas, Sinterklaas and many other well-known names depending on global origin. Being in the United States, British and Dutch versions of the gift giver merged further, eventually becoming Americanized into “Santa Claus”.

I believe most of us know the history of Santa Claus, but how many know the history of Krampus, other than seeing the movie which added to my interest in this mythical figures or figures. Like anything else Santa  is a gift giver while Krampus is a gift taker among other things.

Who is Krampus?

Krampus a central European folklore is a horned, anthropomorphic figure described as “Half-goat, half-demon” who during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved. This contrasts with Saint Nicholas for oblivious reasons.

The history of the Krampus figure has been theorized as stretching back to Pre-Christian Alpine traditions. It is said that the myth of Krampus was the son of Hel, Norse goddess of the underworld.

Although Krampus appears in various variations, most share some common physical characteristics. He is hairy, usually black or brown, has cloven hooves and horns of a goat. His long, pointed tongue lolls out and he has fangs.

Krampus carries chains, thought to symbolize the binding of the Devil by the Christian Church. He thrashes the chains for dramatic effect. The chains are sometimes accompanied with bells of various sizes. Of more pagan origins are the Ruten, bundles of birch branches that Krampus carries and with he occasionally swats children. Sometimes Krampus appears with a sack of a basket strapped to his back; this is to cart off evil children for drowning, eating or to transport to hell.

Krampusnacht, European and American Traditions

The feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated in parts of Europe on December 6th. On the preceding evening December 5th, Krampus night is when the wicked hairy devil appears on the streets. While Krampus is responsible for the bad. Nicholas dispenses gifts, while Krampus supplies coal and Ruten bundles.

Milk and Cookies for Santa but what do you give Krampus, well Schnapps of course, a strong distilled fruit brandy.

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Europeans have been exchanging greeting cards feature Krampus since the 1800’s. Sometimes introduced with Greetings from Krampus, the cards usually humorous rhymes and poems. Krampus is often featured menacingly over children. He is also shown as having one human foot and one cloven hoof. In some Krampus sexual overtones; he is pictured pursuing buxom women. Over time, the representation of Krampus in the cards have changed; older versions have a more frightening Krampus, while modern versions are cuter, more Cupid-like creatures.

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In American it’s quite the opposite with a picture of Fat jolly Santa eat cookies, with his reindeer, elves living in the north pole, so many different variations. In addition to Santa, cards typically have imagines of Jesus birth, three wise man, Star of Bethlehem in addition to a winter theme. Suffice to say you will never see Santa leering at Kids or buxom women as we have to remember that Santa originated with Christian principles.

As you can see the two difference between the two figures, obliviously there is so much more on Santa and his origins. Krampus is a folklore which wouldn’t physically exist, but in sense if you believe in the devil like I do then its perfectly possible that Krampus could exist but I think I probably would have met him by now since all little boys and girls are good.

Krampus in Popular Culture

Reflecting on the 2015 Krampus film which ignited this blog and because it’s the Christmas season of course, this film perfectly personifies rotten kids and family who are ungrateful with Max who wrote his letter to Santa but his cousins, aunt and uncle ruin the Christmas season, thinking to myself, Thank God I don’t have a family like this. The film itself perfectly creates Krampus, the elves and creature alike in such a perfect way. I think personally we need to have more visits by Krampus in our world to teach people to be more grateful for what they have in this life especially today, where ungratefulness is at an all time high.

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Watching the film and learning about Krampus I can’t help but to think what kind of bad kids would lead Krampus to eat the children , drown them or transport them to hell and in reality if you think about it the Devil truly does wish to take anyone down man , women and child by whatever means to take us to Hell. Interesting how St. Nick and Krampus both appear to have some form of Christian roots especially dealing with Hell and a demon who wants to punish and take.

As a society we are supposed to learn our lesson how to be for giving and selflessness but truly do we ever get to that point, appearing that much of society is rotten to the core at times, I will not say everyone and really I have no idea what the true difference between the U.S. and lets the UK or China, but I would say that wealthy nations do have the propensity for much more greed than lets say other countries whose society may have less, but that is just a theory of course. The reality is anyone rich or poor can truly be ungrateful even for the breath we have each day.

Krampus is still celebrated today in traditional parades known as the Krampuslauf, where young men dressed as Krampus parade through the streets, scaring spectators and sometimes chasing them, although the tradition has been arguably appropriated for celebration.

What I find so beautiful is our beliefs in the United States versus those who live in Europe and have a different belief system involving both St. Nick and Krampus and wonder why do we find Krampus no so menacing here, almost like a joke, but I truly feel if Krampus entered the good ole U.S. there surely would be much better behaved kids and families appreciating what and who is in their life.

Have a fantastic Weekend and thank you for always going on these strange journeys with me and my fascination with strange which typically involves some type of horror movie that I get my influence. More to come as we kick off December and on to Christmas and the New Year!

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