Leave it to the sunny dispositions of the Germans to invent the Anti-Santa affectionately called Krampus. A product of Norse lore, the half-goat, half-demon, beast, the supposed son of the Norse character Hel the daughter of the god Loki, may come and beat the badness right out of your kids. Here’s a dark Christmas tale if there ever was one.
Also known as a “Christmas Devil,” the legend of Krampus tells of a ghastly creature with horns, dark hair, and fangs, a demon bent enforcing some Christmas cheer instead of merely sticking some switches in your kids’ stockings if they are bad during the year. The anti-St. Nicholas uses a chain with bells to last out at bad kids, and he uses those sticks American’s threatened children with to swat the kids with before he half them down to Hades for their kiddie sins.
The name, derived from the German word krampen, has the warm and cuddly literal meaning of “claw.” Krampen are said to share come characteristics of Greek mythology, like those of satyrs and fauns. Apparently, the Germans started this draconian tradition about the same time as they did celebrate the Christmas tree. According to the lore, the Krampus shows up December 6th (TONIGHT!) or on Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night, after the more positive celebration of Nikolaustag, or St. Nicholas Day.
Now that I’ve scared the “Santa Klaus” out of some of you, the more modern tradition in Germany, Austria and the Slavic countries is to stampeded through cordoned off streets to flee these Krampus devils. Since the days the Catholic Church forbade the pagan tradition, not much has been heard from the Anti-Santa, even though teenagers and the Y Generation seem to think Krampus is cool. There’s even an American film starring this far out Scrooge of a Christmas character, 2015’s Krampus, starring Adam Scott.
The legend of Krampus reminds us to “watch out and that we’d better not cry,” cause Santa Claus is not the only one coming to town this Christmas.