Tag Archives: krampus

Scratchbomb Christmas Comedy Classics!

Around this time o’ year way back in 2009 and 2010, I did a series of posts under the banners of Holiday Horrors and Holiday Triumphs, with at least one example of each for every day in December leading up to Christmas Day. I chickened out trying to do that again this year because I feared running low on material, but I think there are still some gems buried in the earlier posts that could do with some new exposure, if I do say so myself.

In that spirit, please enjoy any and all of these Holiday Horrors/Triumphs of years past, whether you’ve just been hipped to Scratchbomb or you want to reread these classics of yesteryear because they’re so awesome. Hubris!

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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.
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Holiday Horrors: KRAMPUS!

For other Holiday Horrors posts, click here.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the American version of the Santa story has been sanitized a little bit. Most of the legends/backstory we think about when we think about Santa come from Germanic folktales. And like most things with Germanic origins, the earlier incarnations are pretty terrifying. Think the fairytales of The Brothers Grimm, or David Hasselhoff.

The Santa Claus of old folklore is similar to the one we know. He puts presents and treats in the stockings of good kids. But he is also trailed by a trickster demon who punishes the wicked kids. In most tellings, this twisted creature’s name is KRAMPUS.

krampus.jpgWhat does KRAMPUS look like? A lot like that handsome devil to your right. He’s a goat-like monster, with cloven hooves, curly horns, and a terrifyingly long tongue. He carries around a switch, which he uses to beat naughty children. Sometimes, he’s depicted wielding a chain instead (yikes). He also carries a basket, in which he deposits especially bad children, in order to carry them back to Hell (double yikes).

In the 19th century, Krampus was so popular that holiday greeting cards featuring him were sent all over Europe. Most of them had the ironic/ominous message Gruss vom Krampus (“Greetings from Krampus”).

Some of these cards showed Krampus as mischievous, like this one, which has him stealing oranges from little kids. Some showed him as being extremely violent. Some depicted him as a bawdy, satyr-like figure, as the lower-left card in this collage did. Some were just plain bizarre, like this one that shows Krampus all decked in leather, driving a motorcycle, while a passive St. Nicholas rides in the sidecar.

Lest you think this is a relic of simpler times, know that in parts of Europe, people still dress up as Krampus every December 5. They create elaborate demon-masks and roam the streets with chains and other noisy things. Their goals are two-fold: 1) to scare people; 2) to get shit faced. It’s sort of a holiday mashup of Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day. (The Morning News has an interesting description of Krampustage from an American’s perspective, which you can read here.)

For some reason, Krampus got airbrushed out of American Christmas traditions. My guess is because he’s terrifying. You won’t find too many references to the child tormentor in our Yuletide fare, although he was referenced on a recent Colbert Report, and seen in the Christmas mini-episode of The Venture Brothers.

So if you dread heading to your folks’ house and drinking too much egg nog, just know that it could be worse. You could have been brought up to know that on Christmas Eve, you might get presents, or you might get dragged to Hades by a fiendish goat-man.