The Christmas season is upon us and that means the European mythical holiday beast is back on the prowl. Krampus! Beware this evil twist on Santa season and keep your children close. Celebrated at many festivals this creepy legend thrives still today.
Imagine a nasty mangled, deranged face with sunken bloodshot eyes that peer at you from under a hooded cloak. Giant goat-like horns that curl up from his head and reveal his furry black body from his half-demon lineage. Long crooked legs with horrible hooves and the sound of bells and chains that rattle as the creature dashes through the streets of these festivals chasing children and adults alike, poking them with sticks and scaring some with the realization that they were naughty this year. Sounds like a good time, right?
The beginning of this legendary creature’s existence stems from a pagan ritual meant to disperse winter’s ghosts. Men would dress in furs and wooden masks and don bells to march through the towns for the tradition that became known as Krampuslauf. His name stems from a Germanic word “Krampen” which means claw. Legend has it that he is the son of the Norse god of the underworld, Hell. Others have traced him back to demonic creatures in Greek mythology, pagan rituals, the goddess Perchta, or Satan himself. In the 12th century, the Catholic Church tried to banish Krampus celebrations because of his resemblance to the devil, but they did not succeed and Krampus grew in popularity as a much-feared and beloved holiday tradition.
This annual celebration of child hunting commenced on December 5th, not the 25th as some might think. St. Nicholas and Krampus would go house to house to reward or punish little children who were either good or naughty that year. St. Nick (otherwise known as Santa Clause) would leave candy in the shoes of good children while Krampus may beat them with a birch stick, or they may go missing altogether to be tortured or devoured later. Krampus was rumored to have various ways of attacking or kidnapping victims, and sometimes he appears with a sack or birch basket on his back to cart away the naughty children for drowning, eating, or transporting them to Hell for a year.
The significance or meaning of the birch can be traced back to the Pagans. Something they called “Ruten” or a bundle of small birch twigs which later would be used for whipping children.
In recent years Krampus has gained popularity in the United States as well, especially for the Krampus Night festival in Orlando. Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New York City also have festivals, but not like the fanatic ones you’ll find in Europe. There is now a comic book series, several movies, and a huge following of people that celebrate this tradition. This year you may also find him at the Awaken Haunted Attraction event Jingle Hells! Join us Friday the 13th in Leslie Michigan as we celebrate Christmas with our macabre version of enthusiasm.