On Sunday evening, a couple of weeks ago, you may have seen a terrifying horned beast thundering down the street. Bedecked in chains, he has a tongue so long it’s lucky he does not trip over it — especially as he possesses the inelegant combination of a foot and a hoof at the end of his hairy legs.
Did ya see him?
Until recently, unless you live in an Alpine village or parts of Germany there’s little chance you’d have come across this creep. He appears every 5th of December to terrify the local children into good behaviour for another year. However, in the past 20 or so years, the Krampus has stepped out of festive obscurity, and become a bit of a mascot for those who are into, let’s say, the darker side of Christmas. And, as the holidays become more and more commercialized every year, maybe it’s time to let this freaky creature known as the Krampus have a full run of the festive season?
So who is this Krampus? What does he want? And why is he brandishing that bunch of sticks?
Who is the Krampus?
Well, the origins of the horned mischief-maker are somewhat blurred. While a faction of historians postulate that Krampus may have pre-Christian Pagan origins, others claim he has far more in common with the Medieval devil. He was seen more as a trickster, rather than some sort of all-powerful evil being he is today. Additionally, St Nicholas, who our jolly old Santa Claus is based on apparently had a knack for taming demons. (What couldn’t he do?!)
Either way, the Krampus traditions go back hundreds of years in Germanic and Alpine regions. Similarly sinister characters appear in Eastern European folklore too. The name ‘Krampus’ derives from the German word for ‘claw’, and with good reason. While today the thought of Santa leaving naughty kids a lump of coal seems a bit harsh, the Krampus takes it waaaay too far. Misbehaved this year? Well your punishment from Mr. K could be anything from whipping you with his trusty bunch of birch rods, to chucking you in his rucksack and carting you off to hell. Yes, hell. Bit of an over-reaction, quite honestly.
Krampus Night and Krampus Run, Lot’s of Devilish Fun
The night of December 5th is when Krampus traditionally appears. This is known as Krampusnacht which — appropriately — translates as Krampus Night. The day after, December 6th, is Nikolaustag (St Nicholas Day). This is when the children look outside their doors to see what was left for them during the night. A gift, from St Nick, or a rod from the Krampus.
Another kooky Krampus tradition is the Krampuslauf, or ‘Krampus Run’. This is when adults dress up as the Krampus, get drunk, and charge around the moonlit streets terrorizing anyone they see. This tradition is not exclusive to Krampus Night, but is popular throughout the month of December. I mean it sounds crazy fun right? No wonder the Krampus is having a resurgence across the world…
Yes, in recent times the Krampus has become a favourite of those who want to celebrate the festive season, but perhaps without the enforced ‘goodness’ we usually associate with Christmas. It plays into the rejection of consumerism and commercialism of the holiday, while still giving us an excuse to get merry.
The Krampus trend really got going in the US in 2004, when artist and graphic designer Monte Beauchamp published a book and held an exhibition featuring vintage Krampus greeting cards. These had been common gifts in parts of Europe since the 19th century, but, fresh to American eyes, it started a craze. By 2010 Krampus celebrations were organised in South Carolina and Oregon. By 2015 a major feature film had been released. Krampus also was referenced in in shows such as American Dad and The Venture Bros. There are many theories as to why this anti-hero of the long past has become so popular today.
Writer Sonia Halback ponders;
“It’s difficult to say exactly why the intrigue surrounding Krampus has skyrocketed. Perhaps for a generation that grew up with Harry Potter and a pop culture that’s always on the lookout for the next classic fantasy creature to reinvent (e.g. vampires, elves, zombies) the time is finally right for this darker Christmas beast to emerge.”
Ironically, some now claim that this anti-commercial figure is now too commercialised. You can’t win really!
But you can drink some Krampuslauf, a strong distilled schnapps, put your horns on and get silly.
A Shroom A Day Keeps The Krampus Away
And if you’re looking for other, let’s say, unconventional ways to celebrate the holidays we of course recommend getting a bit psychedelic. I mean, the Krampus is pretty trippy as it is, and if you think about it, St Nick is too. They fly, move between worlds, are generally omniscient — it’s a bit of a trip this whole Christmas thing, really.
Additionally, neither Krampus, nor Santa could really object. A recent Scientific study found a connection between magic mushrooms and kindness. In the aftermath of ingesting psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in shrooms and magic truffles, both the participants of the study and their friends and family reported them to be generally nicer. And, thats all those two chuckleheads Nick and Krampy are interested in when it comes down to it— being nice.
So the moral of this story is: take shrooms and the Krampus won’t drag you to hell… 😉
Is the Krampus your new psychedelic Santa? Let us know in the comments below!