Merry Krampus!

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I remember when I was young and my mother used to say to me at Christmas time, “If you aren’t good, you’ll be getting a bag of switches and ashes instead of candy.” Of course, I was always good. As time passed and I became older I realized that our Americanized Santa Claus had his roots in a much older St. Nicholas. What I didn’t know at the time was that St. Nicholas had a counterpart, a monstrous creature called Krampus who gave new meaning to the words in a common Christmas song, Santa Claus is coming to Town. Some of the lyrics are:

            “He sees you when you’re sleeping
             He knows when you’re awake.
             He knows when you’ve been bad or good,
              So be good for goodness sake!”

A Victorian Krampus card for Christmas with a naughty little boy!

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Saint Nicholas and Krampus standing over a basket of poor children!
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According to the myth, if children were bad, Krampus carried them off into the dark woods where they were beaten with switches and sometimes thrown into a fire! Now that’s a Christmas monster for you. While St. Nicholas visited the good children, his companion Krampus snatched all the naughty ones and punished them. Like most fairy tales, the origins of Santa Claus are dark and mysterious. In medieval times when St. Nicholas and Krampus were popular, the Church held plays to entertain the people at Christmas time. It was always exciting to have a saint fighting with the devil. That is how the figure of Krampus evolved from a devil-like image who was associated with the bad that went on in the world. Personally, I can’t think of those Christmas switches now without thinking of Krampus.

 

Top two images from Wikipedia The bottom image is from Krampus.com

10 comments

  1. krystal jane says:

    Oh how fun! I didn’t know about Krampus! I love to read about Christmas traditions. Especially the modern ones in other countries. They’re so much more sadistic than the US version!

  2. Melinda Harrison says:

    Kathy, I asked a friend who watches Supernatural and she said yes. He’s a horned god. But I can’t swear to it because I haven’t seen that episode.

  3. Melinda Harrison says:

    Krystal Jane, YES! American stories are so watered down, concerning fairy tales and folklore. I’ll be posting more folklore and legends on this site. Thanks for dropping by.

  4. Matt Manochio says:

    Hi Melinda, thanks! I hope you don’t mind me putting the link on your site. So far the reviews are all 4 or 5 stars (and no, I’m not related to all of the reviewers!) and I’ve already got 25 of them on Amazon. The book’s been out a little more than a month, and for an unknown author, I’m proud of that. If you read it and like it enough to review, I’d be grateful. And I’d also be happy to host you on my site. In fact, I’m going to refer to your Krampus post any way. He’s still so widely unknown in the USA, and I hope to change it. Thanks! And your site is great, both in its content AND looks.

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