Holiday Horrors: Portraits of Krampus

Continuing the fabled tradition begun all the way back in 2009, Scratchbomb presents Holiday Horrors and Holiday Triumphs: an advent calendar of some of the more hideous aspects of this most stressful time of year–with a few bits of awesomeness sprinkled in.

Last year, I wrote of the horrors of Krampus, the demonic goat-man of Germanic legend who trails Santa Claus on his Christmas journey. According to these folktales, if you’re good, Santa brings you gifts. If you’re bad, Krampus brings you a beating. Usually with a switch, though sometimes with a chain. And if you’re really bad, you might get a ride to hell in a basket strapped to his back.

In Germanic Yuletide lore (from which most of our Christmas traditions originate), Krampus and Santa Claus were once inseparable. You could not have one without the other. But Krampus was written out of Christmastime over the years, at least in America. The chastising of naughty children was taken over by Santa, who distributed coal instead of whippings. Eventually, even coal disappeared from the equations, and Christmas became a holiday that was all yin and no yang.

But in Europe–particularly Germany, Austria, and Switzerland–Krampus remains alive. December 5 is known as Krampustage (Krampus Day) in parts of these countries, an occasion for revelers to dress in scary costume, cause mischief, and get tanked. It’s basically the Mitteleurope version of Halloween (a Celtic holiday that never caught on in Europe much beyond the British Isles).

In the late 1800s/early 1900s, folks in these countries liked to send each other Christmas cards featuring his fearsome visage, with the greeting/warning GRUSS VOM KRAMPUS (Greetings from Krampus). In the Teutonic holiday spirit, I’d like to share some of these cards with you, just in case you were running low on Nightmare Fuel.

Here’s Krampus leading a conga line of unhappy children.

Here he is treating some poor kid like LBJ’s dog.

krampusears.gifHey, Krampus is taking some lucky kids out for a sleigh ride. Wheee!

krampussled.jpg“Hey, Mr. Krampus, can I have a bite of your orange?” “WHAT DO YOU THINK, KID?!”

krampusorange.jpgI hope Krampus is just going to pull this praying kid’s chair away, because that’s the least sinister outcome suggested by this picture.

kidschair.jpgIs this girl actually praying to Krampus? Or is she just praying for her life because a deranged demon is about to kidnap her? It’s more likely that the message implied by this card and the previous one is: Say your prayers, kid, or else Krampus will come and getcha. Merry Christmas!

krampuspray.jpgThis one appears to date from around World War I. Krampus unleashes unholy death from on high. In comparison, his switch doesn’t appear so bad.

krampusflying.jpgAnd finally, Krampus was sometimes depicted as a satyr-type figure, a randy, Priapic ladies’ man ready to cause mischief of the Sexy Kind. But in this depiction, Krampus appears befuddled by the appearance of a buxom redhead. “Geez, I can whip kids and steal their oranges, but I just can’t figure out dames!” I don’t know enough German to translate the dirty limerick below the bed, but I think it ends with “The Arisocrats!”


One thought on “Holiday Horrors: Portraits of Krampus”

  1.  I think it’s something along the lines of

    A nice little game, all in honour (played honourably, I think)
    No one can deny the Krampus (I think meaning the Krampus always wins)
    But in this game of hot chess (I think hot chess is what they call speed chess)
    Soon makes even the strongest Krampus weak!

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