By Mason Pendleton
To many, Christmas is a time of joy and peace. It’s about being with family and giving gifts to those you love. Christmas is also a great time for many retailers to get a bit of extra funds as people scramble to get the best gift for their favorite people. Most importantly, Christmas is a time for Santa Claus. His holly jolly laughter and his presents he brings are the true symbol of Christmas (next to Jesus).
Unless you celebrate Krampusnacht.
According to National Geographic, originating in Austria and other Norwegian countries, and held on Dec. 19, Krampusnacht is the polar opposite of Christmas and celebrates the darker side of such a holly jolly holiday. People celebrate by dressing up as the spooky half-goat, half-demon monstrosity known as Krampus, (which means “claw” in German). His job is to beat children with birch rods and throw them into Hell when they’ve been bad, fitting for the son of the Norse goddess Hel.
According to National Geographic and Bustle.com, just like the true meaning of Christmas is love, the true meaning of Krampusnacht celebrates the true monster inside us all. Instead of celebrating with some milk and cookies by the door (there’s still some of that, no worries), the holiday is instead celebrated with adults dressed as Krampus scaring children and drinking with a party or two. Krampusnacht is a little more intended for adults than children and is believed to be a combination of both Christmas and Halloween.
Now just where did this creepy legend start from? Was it a real thing? A strange animal that stole children? A really strong reaction to some diseased bread? Well, Bustle.com states that unfortunately, none of those are true; there isn’t actually a half-goat demon running around Austria and the rest of Europe, and there isn’t anything that caused them to see a real Krampus! Krampus originated as a folktale that spread around Europe like wildfire. According to the folktale, it’s said that while Jolly ol’ St. Nick went and delivered presents to the good children, Krampus followed close behind and punished the bad children that didn’t make it on Santa’s list!
There are many versions; some Krampus legends just spank naughty children, while some just drag them into hell without question. Such a legend really makes coal seem like diamonds doesn’t it? According to National Geographic, Krampusnacht was actually suppressed for many years. Krampusnacht was banned from Catholic churches in the past, because the party goers just partied too hard. Fascists during World War 2 also forbade Krampusnacht because it was seen as a celebration for social democrats-which wasn’t a good thing to be in Nazi Germany. The suppression of both forces for many years nearly caused the extinction of Krampusnacht in the Germanic countries until Krampus became popular again in the 1980s when a German postcard services released postcards depicting Hel’s son himself with captions like “Gruss vom Krampus” (Greetings from Krampus) or “Brav Sein” (Be Good).
The postcards were a big hit, and soon Krampusnacht exploded once more in pop culture, for more modern takes, Krampus was shown to the American public eye with a movie in 2015 called simply “Krampus.” According to Rotten Tomatoes, it got a whopping 51% with audiences (Not bad for a modern horror movie). It also appeared on an episode of Supernatural, labeled “A Very Supernatural Christmas” in the third season of the show. It follows the main characters hunting down Krampus before he can do any more harm.
Media isn’t the only thing that’s begun using Krampus, According to VisitBloomington.com, in the beginning of December, there’s even a Krampus Night celebration in Bloomington, Indiana! So even the people in Indiana get Krampusnacht fever.
Maybe he’s not all the way there, but Krampus is popular again. Everyone hates to admit it, but it’s fun to go against Santa’s wishes on Christmas Eve, but with those wrongful deeds comes the knowledge that, this Christmas, when you get on the naughty list and receive coal in your stocking, be a little more thankful for what you get.