Were you Naughty or Nice this year? These days the Naughty list is no sweat. Lump of coal? no big deal, and us mineral collectors / witchy folks might even relish the idea of a carbon specimen. But if you grew up in 15-19th century Austria being on the naughty list brought a unique brand of terror. Enter, Krampus.
Krampus was St. Nicholas' satyr legged demonic companion, who also visited children in the solstice season. If you were nice, St. Nicholas would leave you a small present of some sort. A coin, candy, socks (a time honored tradition) and if you were exceptionally lucky, an orange. If you were ill mannered for the year, however, Krampus would step in. Depending on the fable and who was telling it, Krampus might just tap on your window giving you a scare, or perhaps he'd chase you for the night. The most extreme tales have him stuffing naughty children in wicker baskets or burlap sacks and beating them with birch branches before dragging them back to hell with him. Suddenly coal is looking pretty good. Krampus may have been an invention of church authorities in the 15th century (or earlier) as a way to incentivize children into being pious while also demonizing the ancient nature spirits and pagan traditions that came before the church. Typical Krampus iconography depicts a faun or devil like anthropomorph with a sack or basket, and a whip or handful of branches, in pursuit of a naughty child. In modern times Krampus is a much revered spirit and Krampusnacht (Dec 5th, sorry Grown-ups) is a well loved festival for Adults to blow off a little holiday steam, imbibe some holiday cheer, and go scare the bejeepers out of children by dressing up like Krampus and chasing them around the neighborhood. Good times, indeed. So, as you get ready for a visit from Santa or some other benevolent solstice spirit, don't forget to leave out an extra cookie and be good, for goodness sake, because somebody's coming....
Originally Published in our Weekly Newsletter 12/12/22
Subscribe below for up-to-date articles and updates