Thursday, November 8, 2012

Krampus will come and get you, so check your manners and behave

Krampus “Morzger Pass” Salzburg 2008

Why would you want to frighten children around Christmas time? It doesn’t compute. But in the Alpine regions, such in Bavaria, Croatia, Germany and Finland, they do. And Krampus is one frightening fellow. According to legend he is the right hand man, the jury and judge of Saint Nicholas, who is set to find out if children have been naughty or nice.

In a few weeks Christmas will again be upon us. And around the world, Christmas translates to merry making, wishes of good tidings and cheer, gift giving and a general sense of peace and prosperity. It is that time of year when children eagerly await the coming of Santa Claus bearing gifts.

Parents have always told their children to behave, to be nice, polite and good to others so that Santa will bring them the Christmas presents they wish for. Children are even told to write Santa a letter, telling him that they’ve been good the whole year round, except maybe for some erstwhile misbehavior here and there, minor at the most, and that they promise not to do it again. Young children eagerly await Santa’s coming on Christmas Eve, leaving him some cookies and a glass of milk to give him sustenance during his long journey to deliver presents.

Adults perpetuate the Christmas traditions they learned from their parents who learned them from their forebears. It is originally a religious tradition, celebrated to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Almighty One, who saved the world from sin, on December 25. Much of the festivities around the world that surround Christmas have to do with this religious tradition. In modern times, the season translates to a holiday, a time for gift giving and sharing, merry making and family and friends’ reunion. And Santa Claus is in the middle of this rejoicing.

Santa Claus

Santa and his reindeers

Santa Claus is also called Saint Nicholas or Saint Nikolaus. In other languages, Santa Claus translates to Father Christmas, Kris Kringle or St. Nick. In the Alpine countries, particularly in Austria, Slovenia, Germany, southern parts of Bavaria, Croatia and Hungary, Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas. And his feast day is on December 6. Saint Nicholas was a real person, and he became the patron saint of little children, the protector of all those who are in trouble, the Lord of the Sea according to the Greeks and very well known as a benefactor and gift giver. It is said the mythical and legendary Santa Claus originated from Saint Nicholas.

Who is Krampus?


Saint Nicholas, according to legend, is said to travel around, checking on people and children. He specially looked for good and well-behaved children. And his right hand man, the leader of several other characters who travel with Saint Nicholas is Krampus. He represents the bad side of Christmas. Krampus is very well known in Germany, Austria, Croatia and Switzerland, where they even hold a celebration for him alone.

Krampus is depicted as a person with a goat-like head, with long matted hair as well as a long red tongue. His name was derived from the Old German word krampen, which translates to “claw.” His has hooved feet and carry a small bundle of birch twigs and a length of rusty chain.

Why fear Krampus? 

Krampus "Morzger Pass" Salzburg 2008
His appearance alone is quite fearsome. But what is more fearsome is that he is said to exact punishment on children who have been naughty, lacked manners and forgot to be polite, whether when they are talking to elders or other children. And he seems to keep tabs on what children do the whole year. That is why on the eve of the feast of Saint Nicholas, on December 5, naughty children could barely sleep for fear of a visit from Krampus.

An annual celebration, called the Krampusnacht, which is German for Night of the Krampus, men wear handmade masks with sheepskin fur, and real horns either from a ram or goat and dressed all over in black. They go around town knocking on doors to gather the children. The Krampus men will act as judge and jury to determine which of the children are to be punished. The objective of the celebration is to teach the children discipline and follow their parents and elders. They always appear to threaten bad and naughty children (even adults) with beating and whipping with the birch twigs and chains they carry.

Saint Nicholas in the meantime will be doing his own rounds, bringing small gifts such as toys, trinkets, food and candy placed inside shoes filled with hay lined up near fireplaces.

Krampus Celebrations

Krampus "Morzger Pass" in Salzburg Austria
Krampus is celebrated in the Alpine countries, including Finland and France. It is also now celebrated in some cities in the United States like San Francisco and Portland. After doing their dastardly deeds of frightening the children to instill discipline and manners, they have a fun run before they indulge in merry making of their own, where schnapps and beer are traditionally served.

In Europe, male relatives dress up as Krampus and knock on doors of their families. While the children cower in fear the Krampus men are invited inside, where they will proceed to “punish” the children until they promise to behave. Afterwards, the Krampus men remove their costumes and join the family in celebrating the eve of Saint Nicholas.

So to keep your children from getting naughty and full of mischief, tell him that Krampus is checking up on him and that he should behave all the time or Krampus will come to tie him up with his chains, beat him with a bunch of twigs, place him in a basket and take him away.

by: Dine Racoma, Editor
Day Translations, Inc. “The most accurate translations on the planet!”
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Photo Credits:
-       Krampus


Unknown said...

Heehee, there is a first time for everything! I'm still naughty, but I'm hoping by getting my pals to be good (or scaring them into being good) That good ol Krampus will take it easy on me and maybe send a good word on to Santa heehee. If you have been interested just follow this link.

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