By best-selling paranormal author Joni Mayhan
The children rush to their beds, thoughts of Santa Claus rising gleefully in their minds as they nestle under the covers. They close their eyes, trying to tamp down on the burbling excitement, only to hear the sound of cloven hooves stalking towards their beds. This is not the jingle of bells and jolly ho-ho-hos they expected. They are getting a visit from the Krampus instead.
They try to hide under the covers, but there’s no escape from this evil beast. Unlike his cheerful counterpart, Santa Claus, Krampus has a darker intent. He is the opposite of everything happy and good, taking sheer delight in punishing naughty children.
He stands over them, his body covered in long shaggy fur that smells like dead things. His eyes are nothing more than glowing orbs set deep into his skull, while the horns of a goat adorn his head. Some say he is part beast, part man, which is evident from his feet. One foot is human, while the other is a hoof. His tongue lolls out of his mouth like a serpent, and in his clawed hands, he carries a bundle of ruten branches, that he uses to lash at the children. If they’re lucky, he will stop with that, but if they’ve been very bad, he might stuff them into his enormous bag and carry them away, where he will either drown them or eat them alive.
Krampus is a beast of legends, harking back to both Norse and Greek Mythology. It was used for generations to keep children from misbehaving, while instilling within them a lifetime of phobias. According to Wikipedia, the Austrian governments attempted to stifle the legends after the 1934 Austrian Civil War, prohibiting the tradition, but the legend refused to die.
The first week of December became a terrifying week for children. While December 6th was set aside as the Feast of St. Nicholas, a tribute to the jolly old fellow who brought holiday joy to good little children, the eve of this night was another story altogether. If children were bad, they were told they might not survive to see the feast.
On Krampus Night, or Krampusnacht, the horned beast roamed the streets, looking for naughty children to punish. In some regional areas, the Krampus presented families with a ruten bundle early in the season, so they could display it all year long as a reminder to the children.
In the 1900’s cards like the one shown below were often sent as holiday greetings. “Greetings from the Krampus,” this one reads.
Derived from the German word Krampen, which means claw, the Krampus has undergone vast changes in modern society. While Krampusnacht is still celebrated in many areas, it has more of a comic tone to it. Fueled by alcohol, people dress up in costumes and chase other people down the streets.
The good versus evil symbolism is undeniable, something children understood from a very young age. If you’re good, you might get candy or treats in your boot, but if you’re bad, you might be the treat for a very evil monster. I’m just thankful this legend never made it to my childhood hometown. I had enough to worry about with ghosts in the closet and monsters under my bed.
Joni Mayhan is a paranormal investigator and the author of 13 paranormal books. To learn more about her, check out her website Jonimayhan.com.
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