"And Krampus, Every One..."
December 12, 2011 5:40 PM   Subscribe

Krampus. the Christmas Demon of Germanic folklore whose job it was to punish the kids on Santa's Naughty List has been featured here before. And while most people assume he is a better-left-forgotten relic of less gentle times (or less gentle places), he appears to be having a resurgence this year, being featured everywhere from Buzzfeed to FearNet to The Awl to NPR. He's getting a piece of the Christmas merchandise blitz and of course he has his own website. There is Krampus music and he even speaks in his own defense. And of course, he has a 'Folk Death Metal' band named after him.
But the biggest Krampus Kontroversy today is via travel/food TV maven Anthony Bourdain, who wrote and had animated a cautionary Krampus story for the holiday edition of his show, which was rejected by his bosses at the Travel Channel. Fortunately, you can still see it on YouTube. Happy Holidays!
posted by oneswellfoop (30 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
And who can forget when he crashed the Venture compound?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:54 PM on December 12, 2011 [8 favorites]

I was actually talking about this with selenized the other day. We are both hoping that this tradition comes to North America.

I'm still waiting to see if he was serious about wandering around the city and rattling chains to scare children (as per the tradition).
posted by asnider at 5:59 PM on December 12, 2011

Krampus is the reason for the season.
posted by Mcable at 6:06 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

II have been seeing a lot of Krampus references lately. A particularly excellent Krampus video I stumbled across the other day.
posted by polywomp at 6:12 PM on December 12, 2011 [7 favorites]

I LOVE KRAMPUS! Seriously! This is the best post ever! [/overexuberance]
posted by emilycardigan at 6:12 PM on December 12, 2011

He's also on Twitter.
posted by emilycardigan at 6:38 PM on December 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Here in Chicago, there is a wonderful Krampus themed art show at Curly Tail Fine Art. If you're here in the city, it's worth a stop. The show runs till January 15.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 6:41 PM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

"I sink it is time to get in de bag."
posted by bendy at 6:50 PM on December 12, 2011

I think it’s important to point out that Christmas traditions are pretty diverse in Germany. I grew up in the northeast of Bavaria (near the Czech border) and Krampus did play a role – but not in the way you might think.

Knecht Ruprecht (Servant Ruprecht) is a much nicer (and also human) version of Krampus, but they are certainly not two very distinct figures. (My grandma and quite a few other people often called Knecht Ruprecht Krampus and used the two names interchangeably.) He is Saint Nicholas’ – or Nikolaus in German – (and usually not Santa’s – but sometimes he might be) helper†, carrying the bag with presents (sometimes) but also a birch.

Now, I don’t know whether that has always been the case or whether that’s a new development, but Saint Nicholas doesn’t come on Christmas, he comes on his holiday (duh!), the sixth of december. In my childhood I got small presents on the sixth (usually chocolate, maybe a really small toy) and the big presents (without any sweets) Christmas eve. Not from Santa Claus but from the Christkind – but that wasn’t even the same among my friends. Santa Claus is obviously everywhere in Germany and has been for a long time.

Now, my parents often arranged for a Nikolaus and sometimes also Knecht Ruprecht to actually come home to us. Knecht Ruprecht is more an optional extra, definitely not a usual guest, but that is also a detail that might be different for every family. Some might only fill some boots with stuff (my parents did just that the first few years of my life). There was – of course – no real beating of any kind, but make no mistake, to a young child Knecht Ruprecht is pretty intimidating. Even Nikolaus was. My parents always prepared a text for Nikolaus which also listed all my misdeeds. Nikolaus was – in some way – a pedagogical tool. That’s not at all unusual. At Christmas celebrations (of sport clubs, kindergarten, …) Nikolaus might give a brief recap of stuff that happened during the year and point out especially stupid or funny things certain people did.

But – again – the Saint Nicholas holiday is not in any way Christmas. Christmas is its own big celebration with presents and a tree and all that stuff.

† Can you now guess the name of the Simpsons’ dog – Santa’s Little Helper – in the German translation? Yep, he is called Knecht Ruprecht. All through my childhood I wondered why the Simpsons had a dog with such an oddly German name – turns out they really don’t.
posted by michael.ka at 6:58 PM on December 12, 2011 [8 favorites]

Man, Krampus used to be my creepy holiday thing. Now it's everybody's.

I'm generally not, you know, one of those "I knew about it before it was cool" people, mostly by dint of never knowing about anything that has any possibility of being cool, but I'm a little chuffed by this.
posted by gauche at 7:01 PM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

That's the problem with Christmas these days: all carrot, no stick. These little ingrates think it's all about the jolly fat man showing up to give them stuff just because they want it. No good behavior, no risk of possible flailing to worry about -- just "Me me me, want want want." We need Krampus now more than ever.

If nothing else, Christmas season in the States probably wouldn't start the day after Halloween if we had some hairy Germanic BDSM beastie to contend with.
posted by Misunderestimated at 7:19 PM on December 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

I just got my Krampus cards with this design today! I can't wait to terrify my niece & nephew with their Christmas cards this year!
posted by KingEdRa at 7:26 PM on December 12, 2011

These days, we have better uses for Santa's naughty list.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:27 PM on December 12, 2011

On the freeform station of the nation, WFMU, station manager Ken is doing his annual Krampus show this Wednesday morning from 9 to noon ET. Always a good time -- the animated GIFs that accompany the accuplaylist online should certainly be worth a look.
posted by Joey Bagels at 7:31 PM on December 12, 2011

Shoes go out for the morning of the 6th, this year my mother sent bells for my kids -- I am assuming that they were meant as a warning to be good lest my kids hear them again when Krampus comes, or they are just Christmas bells.

My grandmother never actually talks about anyone but Krampus visiting (like michael.ka) on the day, she is like that, she always tells me that I should look forward to nothing more than a lump of coal and a switch. Always followed by a wink and hug. She is 90 and talks about Krampus all month. Can't wait to see her Christmas Eve.
posted by cgk at 7:34 PM on December 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


There is a Christmas themed pub crawl I am considering attending this week. I was in it for the seasonal beer specials until I heard that they are giving out Santa hats and elf ears to the participants. I'm not too much into that, so I've been considering making a set of paper mache Krampus horns, donning some tatters, and rocking out like a drunk Austrian. Thank you Metafilter for helping to convince me that this is an excellent idea. I just need to find some rusty chains...
posted by troublewithwolves at 8:00 PM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Bourdain short was very good. But I can see why they wouldn't air it.
posted by shoesietart at 9:13 PM on December 12, 2011

Encountering a Krampus even in Daylight scares the shit out of any kid. It's not that "plastic Halloween Feeling", but rather a elemental fear gripping you. (Yeah, being afraid in the dark is easy ...)

It also is a rite of passage to a certain decree: the younger man keep the kids in check and therefore becoming the enforcer of the law of the community. It's a domestication of their own Wildness under the disguise of being wild & fearsome. Actually a mechanism almost all male rites of passage use - including modern armies.

posted by homodigitalis at 10:04 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's also this blog post on why Krampus (instead of Guy Fawkes) should be the symbol for Occupy...
posted by symbioid at 10:25 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

In Switzerland, the same or similar figure is called Schmutzli. (The little dirty one.) He accompanies Samichlaus (Santa) when he visits on the 6. December. They have a kind of good-cop/bad-cop dynamic, with Santa giving presents to children who have been good and can recite verses, and Schmutzli beating or carrying off the bad children.
posted by Zarkonnen at 11:11 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Even Philadelphia had a little Krampus Parade this year.
posted by SPUTNIK at 6:50 AM on December 13, 2011

I watched Bourdain's xmas show last night. The Samantha Brown cameo is not to be missed.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:51 AM on December 13, 2011

My favorite? The husband of one of the vendors at a craft show I organize started selling Krampus cards this year on Etsy. SO DELIGHTFUL.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:23 AM on December 13, 2011

Whenever I see those old-timey pictures of Krampus tormenting the naughty, I like to picture him having a political-cartoon style label reading "CONSUMER DEBT."
posted by whir at 11:12 AM on December 13, 2011

There's also this blog post on why Krampus (instead of Guy Fawkes) should be the symbol for Occupy...

I don't know that he actually needs to replace him, but I like the idea of some kind of Krampus contingent during the holiday season. It would be a good fit.
posted by homunculus at 11:56 AM on December 13, 2011

My grandfather grew up in Wisconsin, in a little German-speaking town. He said that their version of Santa Claus (which could have been Krampus, or the Black Peters, I don't recall) was a guy who would show up in their house early Christmas morning to speak with my grandfather and my great uncle. I think that this was around 1912, so they were probably about six and four years old, respectively. This guy would berate them and tell them what selfish, horrible children they were. The tirade would end with each of them getting slapped accross the face. Then this guy would tell them that he knew that they would be better children in the coming year, and give them each a fresh orange. My grandfather said that it was worth getting slapped for the Orange in the middle of winter.

The only part of the tradition that survives is the orange.
posted by dfm500 at 1:57 PM on December 13, 2011

I just put together a St Nicholas Day party for my church. It was hard enough getting the "bishop of Myra" part across to the kids, so I skipped over his helpers in various countries. Besides, I just wasn't up for the whole Black Peter discussion. David Sedaris did it better anyway. I did, however, make some rockin Speculaas cookies.
posted by Biblio at 2:49 PM on December 13, 2011

Krampus on Infinite Earths
posted by Artw at 11:44 AM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I forgot to post this when I first saw it: Krampus as an awkward Victorian suitor, and Krampus hauling off a basket of tiny women, driving an auto-mobile with St. Nicholas in the passenger's seat.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:24 AM on January 3, 2012

« Older AN ANACONDA UNHINGES ITS MAGNIFICENT JAW. INSIDE...   |   It Happened at the World's Fair Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments