Art by @muertoslopez
It was only five years ago that I discovered the legend of the Krampus. Yes, it had everything to do with the 2015 Michael Dougherty film. After spending many years of my life arguing that Jesus was born in the Spring, Christianity is full of thievery, war, lies and the truth that Santa is real, I eagerly welcomed some horror into the holidays. I was done trying to be the perfect gift giver to unimpressed children and family members. I was sick of bending over backwards (not easy with boobs like mine) to make everyone I know happy and touch them with my Holiday spirit. I was sick of trying to "Mrs. Krank". Talk about a Christmas Hangover. Now? Give me all the horror at the holidays! Krampus is a real-life Nightmare Before Christmas. He's more sinister and, dark and, quite relatable. Man, was I impressed with the legend that Michael Dougherty brought to the screen! At the time I didn't know much about who or what Krampus was, I was only intrigued with the fact there was an anti-Santa and, I enjoyed the playful fear and good behavior my kids were displaying to avoid being taken by Krampus December 5th, 2015.
In European folklore, Krampus is a servant of St. Nicholas. Krampus' sole purpose is to punish badly behaved children by hurling them into a basket on his back and he would whip them with broomsticks. How badly Krampus would punish the child depended on how shitty the kid was. Krampus was told to have also taken especially naughty children and hurled them in to the flames of Hell! Que the black metal music! No wonder why Krampus has been withheld from so many American children! We cant have their precious entitlement disrupted during the holidays! Even when they are pure shit heads.
Similar to the film, my kids have a full blooded German Grandmother. So, they went to her to find out more about Krampus and, to say they are like the kids in the film. It was pretty fun seeing the kids give into a darker aspect of the holidays. She gave them the basics; Krampus was the Christmas demon that came to spank bad kids with brooms and carried them off in a basket. Unlike, the film my kids grandmother is about as nurturing as a stale cinnamon broomstick so, thats as far as my kids and I got with Krampus lore from our best Germanic source. She was annoyed with us for teaching the kids about Krampus in the first place. How Cath-o-lic! If we don't teach our kids about the darker things in life, that nothing is perfect, the better they turn out right?
Yea, cause that has always worked out so well.
The ending of the 2015 film does stir up some conversations. This is one of the many reasons why I love it. My interpretation is that Krampus is giving the family a second chance to get their shit together before coming together during future Christmases. I'll take it even further by adding that, if it were me and, my family, I wouldn't bother with sitting in hours of traffic, agitated, hungry or be the one to host Christmas with family that we have nothing in common with. All just to be taken into the underworld and spending eternity with my family. Fuck that! Why do families insist it necessary to spend time with each other during the holidays when it's pure hell?
I am so with Max on that because, family at Christmas time gets so bad that the pit of hell itself opens up and unleashes an Anti-Santa demon to come and terrorize family further. To be honest, I have wanted Krampus to attend subsequent and, mandatory holiday family gatherings since the film. Him and I would have mulled wine and I'd happily volunteer to be one of his helpers than to endure more family judgements, arguments and faking being so impressed with a gift that has nothing to do with me as a human being.
"I'll see you in hell!"
It gets darker. Krampus does represent a darker aspect of Christmas. In conjunction with the hundreds of practices, beliefs and celebrations held during the Winter Solstice, Krampusnaucht is the night the festival best known as "The Running of the Krampus" occurs. A festival of naughty adults and children attend to witness hordes of Krampus' wreck havoc on villages. No booty is safe from the swatting at these! They are still going on to this day in Austria, Germany and now, even here in Los Angeles.
I attended my first Krampus Ball in 2016. Initially I thought I would be joining in on a revelry of German food, beer, Jägermeister and a Krampus Rammstein cover band. And, I did! But, what I didn't expect was the re-enactment of St. Nicholas coming to visit the do-gooders and dole out treats and gifts to them. But, he wasn't alone. He was accompanied by a bunch of Krampus creatures, elves and that giant black Phillip that I am sure is the subject of my fantasies. They were all there to unleashed upon us naughty and willing-to-be-beaten sinners. I was hooked. I wasn't very lucky in nabbing tickets for 2017 or 2018 but, I got in last year and, it was even better than the first time. I hadn't been spanked that good in awhile! Not mention that the staff was kind, the beer was good. There were familiar vendors from the horror conventions there and oh, Krammpstein! The Rammstein cover band that is comprised of a bunch of Krampus donning bad asses. Bodies were sliding across the beer soaked floor by the end of the night. I'll remain naughty all year for nights like that.
And, it doesn't stop with Krampus! Within the past few years, I have discovered who the servants of St. Nicholas were. Like Mari Lwyd and Perchten. Unfortunatley, as with many characters from history and lore, I also discovered a servant of St. Nicholas was created and rooted in racism. But, I was also not surprised.
Krampus lore isn't at all factual and, a lot of twisting of tales have made their way though what we fragile American's know of these dark legends. We know that Santa was derived from St. Nicholas, who I mentioned before was the merry maker, the Saint, the gift giver, the well-doer. But, much like many American Christmas traditions, holiday revelry was molded to fit the lifestyle of a certain kind of people. The kind of infuriating shit we don't hear about when we revel in tales like Krampus and, even Santa, is the real-life horror. As a Saint, Nicholas traveled with Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) a black-faced menace in medieval garb who would help out St. Nikolaus by ridding the world of bad kids by taking them in his bag and carting them off to Spain...
So, just like being told that Santa, Jesus and how many Christmas gifts you get are the reasons for the season, all of our traditions are born from something dark. Something stolen and, something hated.
Christmas isn't so merry and bright after all is it?
Thats when we light our candles and place them on our Yule logs and trees. The darkest night comes and, after that the light increases day by day. We keep ourselves warm with hot drinks, we feast and we sing. We embrace the Solstice and, the creatures that come with it. Winter time brings forth ghosts stories after all. They bring us joy and a bit of delectable fear.
I love Krampus as he is offensive and a bringer of mischief to the merry makers. Krampus is the savior for us Halloweeniers who are suffering from post-Halloween depression syndrome. In a time we were taught to be on our best behavior, Krampus lore and celebrations gives us sinners naughty pleasure and fun during an otherwise stressful and too well-lit holiday. Krampus is cold winter nights that tastes like mulled wine. A good blanket that keeps me warm on a chilly afternoon. Krampus is the ultimate horror outlet during Xmas.
Well, theres always those murderous Santa's too. So, you better watch out.