Christmas has the front seat in America, though; I’m sure Rick Perry and the ilk could tell us all about the war on it. With the season comes our lovable, old, white man, who barrels down the chimney to eat all of your food, potentially leave you coal and take credit for all those toys that your parents got a retail job on the weekends to buy. The guy kinda sounds like a jerk, and if there is one thing I’ve learned from being an American, it’s that most old, white, Christian platform, men in charge have a tendency to really mess things up.
The man in red is a relatively well-known celebrity in the western world, mostly for his yearly delivery of gifts to good boys and girls, and coal to bad kids. Santa. He’s everyone’s hero, the Brangelina of the holiday world, the man who gets all the cred. But let’s be honest. Santa is just a spotlight hog who has taken advantage of his status to become number 1, leaving some of his other winter solstice buddies in the dust. There’s Knecht Ruprecht or Farmhand Ruprecht, Santa’s shepherd buddy whose vagabond lifestyle and lack of reindeers make him unpopular with consumers. Then there’s Zwarte Piet, the Netherlands’ excuse for wearing blackface and beating up those who try to protest the dehumanizing aspect of the tradition. Yes, peace, love, and joy, I say. This guy is a racist asshole who is supposed to be Santa’s helper, but seriously? He’s whack.
All things aside, these folks are just pit stops on the way to holy holiday hell. See, I want to talk about Krampus.
“Krampus?” you say. Of course. No one really knows who Krampus is, unless you are familiar with Pre-Christian Alpine traditions or live in Alpine states like Bavaria, Styria, or South Tyrol. In these regions, people just don’t buy the whole “Santa brings you toys if you’re good and coal if you’re bad” storyline. Sure, St. Nicolas brings you gifts, but that’s it. Krampus? He brings you hell and fury. Let me further explain.
Krampus is Santa’s Dr. Hyde, a mythical beast demon, bent on terrifying children and adults alike. Krampus is hideous: he’s a smelly, horrific, goat devil covered in black rags, with chains around his neck, ankles, and wrists, huge horns, cloven hooves, a monstrous tongue and a serious penchant for whooping ass, as he roams the countryside, beating poor children with rusty chains and silver birch branches. Oh, ’tis a Merry Krampus.
As per tradition, and possibly a golden example of the social problems that plague these regions, every Krampusnacht (which takes place on our Christmas Eve), intoxicated young folks take to the streets dressed as Krampus, simultaneously terrifying and humoring spectators by rushing up to onlookers to beat them with branches, attacking them and creating spectacles of fire breathing and other pagan delights. And the good folks in the neighborhood love it.
A bit of backstory on the terrifying tradition from Krampus.com, the devil’s very own homepage:
The European practice of mummery during the winter solstice season can be traced back tens of thousands of years. Villagers across the continent dress up as animals, wild-men and mythic figures to parade and perform humorous plays. This ancient guising and masking tradition continues to this day as the primary source for our modern Halloween with its costumes, trick-or-treat, and pagan symbolism. Among the most common figures in these folk rituals were Old Man Winter and the horned Goat-Man — archetypes now found in the forms of Saint Nick/Santa Claus, and the Devil (‘Old Nick’), aka Krampus.
In 19th century New York City, an American St. Nick emerged in the form of Santa Claus. Although based on the Dutch Saint Nicholas, Santa incorporated more elements from pagan winter solstice customs. He relinquished his white bishop garb for a red suit, traded his horse and staff for a sleigh and reindeer, and moved his franchise to Christmas Eve. Santa also tried to take over the dark companion’s job of punishing the naughty, but his New World temperament was apparently unsuited for the task. As Santa neglected and abandoned his punishing duties, American kids lost all fear of Santa and his lumps of coal. Thankfully, in the 21st century, Krampus has arrived in this land of spoiled and dissatisfied children to pick up the slack.
Holy shit, y’all. Can you even imagine what would happen if we had demon devils running the streets of America, beating the crap out of kids? There’s NO WAY someone is not going home pepper sprayed, tazed, or dead. That’s some real Christmas justice, friends.
So while the rest of the states gets their jollies for Santa, the big, red wino, I call upon Americans—real Americans—to get their Krampus on. Why spend the holiday hoping for some fat bastard to come break into your house and maybe leave toys, when you can have a demonic hell beast beat the everliving lights out of you? Why celebrate peace, love, and joy when you you can be flogged with rusty chains all the way back to hell?
Because like Colbert says, nothing says “I love you more” than the urine of petrified adults and children. Merry Krampus to you all.