By: Rachel Stewart
“He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!” Now, without context, this can sound pretty alarming. Who is “he”? God? Big Brother? In actuality though, we all know it’s just about our charming, neighborhood Santa. Santa is the mascot of Christmas, and even though his actions may seem eerie at first, we all know he’s a nice guy full of Christmas cheer. In a way, he dispenses justice, playing both “good cop” and “bad cop” at the same time. If you’ve been good, you receive gifts, but if you’ve misbehaved, you receive coal. That’s the extent of what happens if you’re on “the naughty list” in America, but in some countries of Europe, Santa has a foil, one who solely acts on those naughty kids: Krampus.
(Picture from wired.com) Krampus engaging in some “just Krampus things,” like terrorizing children.
Krampus has a home traditionally in Germany and Austria, and he’s depicted as a horned, anthropomorphic creature who punishes children who have behaved badly during Christmas time. He’s the “bad cop,” and lets Santa take on the sole task of “good cop.” He is thought to come from Alpine folklore, and traditionally has hooves, a horned tongue, and a hairy body with a tail. The carrying of the chains symbolizes the binding of the Devil within the Christian Church. Occasionally he carries around a bathtub on his back, to drown the bad children, or a sack, to stuff them in and transport them to Hell. Fun stuff. Nothing like children getting sent to Hell to really get me in the Christmas spirit!
I asked students what they think of Krampus. Sam Wick, senior, said she “wouldn’t mind him sneaking into [her] house after dark. He seems like a pretty cool guy.” Bridget Richard, also a senior, said, “It probably would have scared me a ton as a kid, but it’s a really fascinating and dark concept.” Meghna Kumar, senior, said she “loves mythology, so [she] would describe him as very intriguing.”
So next time someone threatens you with the gift of coal at Christmas, be thankful that you’re getting that coal, and not a visit from Krampus.