Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Holy Shit, Krampus!

Krampus stealing children

Do you ever feel like there's something missing in the way we teach our children how to celebrate Christmas? We tell them that, if they behave and stop looking through daddy's browser history, Santa Claus will come to town and give them toys and presents. If not, they get a lump of coal.
Censor Bar
And some light trauma.

I mean, either way they're getting something, right? And let's be honest, a lump of coal ain't half bad. Just wait until they learn you can set it on fire. That's gonna lead to some entertainment. And possibly tragedy.

The story is incomplete. The good news is that the rest of the story is already out there. In Europe. Alpine Europe. You know, like Bavaria, Austria, and Croatia. They have a figure who works with Santa Claus, taking up the much needed role of the menacing bad cop. And if history has taught us anything, it's that Austria knows how to produce menacing figures.

This particular menace is known as Krampus, and is utterly terrifying.

Terrifying Krampus Mask
Light trauma is for pansies.

In contrast to Santa Claus, Krampus visits the home of naughty children to bring them no gifts but torment and suffering to match their misdeeds. The more you learn about him the more you wonder how anyone in Alpine Europe makes it to adulthood without deep psychological scarring.

First of all, Krampus brings a birch switch with him to whip the mildly naughty kids into shape. Corporal punishment. That's not so bad, right? And it's not! At least, not until you learn that the birch is a common phallic symbol in folklore. So in a subtle way, our story begins as a cautionary tale about a demon who will straight up dickwhip your children if they talk back to you.
Krampus costume
While making that face.

That's just the kind-of-naughty kids. If you were really bad, your Christmas treat was to be picked up by Krampus' freakishly long, eldritch tongue, slapped into a basket, and carried off either to his lair or to Hell itself, where undisclosed horrors would be visited upon you in retribution for the grief you've caused your parents.
Krampus greeting card
Gosh, Timmy, we'd love to help, but you've been kind of a dick this year...

In case you're wondering (a) where those horrifying real-life images came from and (b) whether this custom of arcane yuletide terror is a mere cautionary tale, I can answer both of those questions at once. Every year, as part of the Christmas Season, young men in Alpine countries dress up as Krampus for a festival that consists mainly of said men scaring the shit out of every child they can find.

So the next time you find that your little boy or girl is unresponsive to the idea that Santa won't bring them exactly what they want if they continue being awful, consider sweetening the pot with a casual mention that the fury of a horned, cloven-hoofed, long-tongued demon is the alternative.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

And holy shit.

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