Here in the United States, most of us spent the early part of December feverishly working out (and reworking) our Christmas lists, racking our brains to remember all the naughty things we did over the past year and investing a lot of brain power into putting the proper spin on them in our letters to Santa. The prospect of receiving a lump of coal in our stocking in lieu of gifts under the tree seemed daunting to our childish mind, and we hoped against hope that jolly old St. Nick would see pass our transgressions and find compassion in his heart to bring us all our hearts hoped for.
As much stress as that may have burdened us with leading up to Christmas, we had it easy compared to European traditions, which tended to terrify young children into obedience.
Krampus is a figure, believed to be of pre-Christian origins (likely an evolution of the Yule Goat tradition), who infiltrated Christmas winter celebrations in Alpine traditions as early as the 17th century. In contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards well-behaved children with gifts, Krampus eagerly punishes the ill-behaved by stuffing them into a sack (or his basket) and swatting them with bundles of birch branches (Ouch!), before carting them off to the underworld for further punishment. (Talk about Holiday stress…)
Feast your eyes on these vintage illustrations that reveal the horror that is the Krampus tradition.
Krampus springs from the underworld to start the season right.
One wonders what the kid in the basket might have done with that slingshot just prior to his current predicament.
Krampus displaying his traditional lolling tongue and chains.
Apparently, Krampus hates gingerbread children too.
“Gruss vom Krampus!” Greetings from Krampus, indeed!
That tongue is simply terrifying.
“He’s making a list. He’s checking it twice.” Note: you don’t want to be on his list.
Krampus is sometimes depicted with hooves, other times with feet. Here, the artist split the difference.
Krampus, the well-dressed harasser of children.
These kids don’t seem too upset; maybe they knew what was coming?
Sometimes Krampus collects so many children, he needs a helper to bring up the rear. This must have been a bad year for kids.
Krampus isn’t opposed to adopting emerging technologies. I wonder how many kids per gallon that auto gets?
Just when you thought that that Krampus tradition couldn’t get any worse, you realize that he’s actually in cahoots with Saint Nicholas. I thought you were supposed to be a jolly old soul, big guy!
Don’t mind me. I’m just here to abduct your kids while Saint Nicholas and your parents stand idly by.
Jolly Saint Nicholas and Krampus, conspiring to terrify your kids since the 17th century.
Saint Nick isn’t looking so jolly anymore…
You get a generous helping of fruit, and your friend over there gets stuffed headfirst into a bag and swatted with birch branches.
You get a toy, your brother gets beaten (unless his prayers work, then you get beaten too.)
“He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows if you’re awake…”
Saint Nicholas and Krampus after a busy night. Both bags look awfully full there.
Eventually, Krampus upgraded to a four-door sedan with an oversized trunk for efficiency.
Luckily for those of us who live on the fence where naughty and nice lists are concerned, there is a solution.
Swink, an interactive design studio based in Madison, Wisconsin, created the handy Krampus Defence Kit. Paper Specs provided a nice video review of its contents. Note: use of this kit resulted in no friends of Swink being beaten or kidnapped by Krampus. I’d count that as a success.
Happy holidays, and may the Krampus fill up on the terrible children of your neighbors before he ever reaches your threshold.
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