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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Gruss vom Krampus!

Greetings from the Krampus! Europeans have been exchanging holiday greeting cards with those words and a horned devil known as the Krampus on them since the 1800s.

The Krampus or Christmas Devil is a helper to St. Nick (more on St. Nick in tomorrow's Santa post) in the Alpine countries. The Krampus is celebrated during the Krampusnacht (Night of the Krampus) the eve of St. Nicholas day (Dec 6th) where men in devil costumes caper through the streets holding torches demanding the traditional gift of schnapps of those they meet. The Krampus looks remarkably like the God Pan, the Grecian Woodland deity who was the Church's model for Satan, and major figure in the Roman Pagan Winter Solstice festival Saturalia. During the Saturalia slaves in Saytar or animal masks and baring torches ran through the streets of Roman demanding wine from their social betters and beating bad masters with switches. They sound very similar don't they? Its not surprising then that the Krampusnacht is traditionally celebrated in northern Italy and the Alpine regions of Austria & Germany the very regions where Roman Pagan and Pagan Germanic traditions coexisted in pre-Christian times.
He is also the personification of the even older entity known as the Wildman of the Wood (sometimes known as the Green Man in Britain). The Wildman of the Wood appears in many of the oldest Northern European tales including some of the earliest Arthurian tales. The chain he wears on his hands symbolized that this "wild devil" has been tamed by "Christianity" and now works for the saints, in this case St. Nick.
Note the wicker basket on his back to carry naughty children in to be drowned, eaten or carried of the Hell depending on the how old the story you're reading is.
So if your child has been bad this year send them to the Alps where they'll be taught a lesson by the Krampus.

(Please note the Fiends in Waistcoats do NOT approve of San Fransisco hipsters co-opting Krampusnact and turning it into yet another drunken frat party!)

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