December 13, 2015 by Paula Reed Nancarrow
The #FolkloreThursday Twitter feed has been full the last few weeks of all things Krampus.
This makes sense, given that December 5 was the eve of St. Nicholas Day, and the holiday devil is associated with that good saint. St. Nicholas gives gifts to good children; Krampus punishes the ones who misbehave. Good cop, bad cop was around long before it was a trope on the screen.
I have a particular interest in Krampus this year because I’ve been invited to participate in a storytelling on December 19 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral that will involve him. They’re calling the event “Episco-Dazzle,” in contrast to the Holidazzle Parade. This annual Minneapolis event usually marches down the Nicollet Avenue Mall and encourages downtown shopping.
Due to construction, Holidazzle is taking place in Loring Park this year, directly across from the Cathedral. The good folks at St. Mark’s saw an opportunity to open their doors and welcome the community. And perhaps do a little something countercultural, or at least counter-commercialism.
Krampus is growing in popularity in the states, partly as an antidote to scholocky, over consumerist Christmas.
There was an excellent article about the many monsters of European Christmas on “Why America Doesn’t Have Christmas Monsters.” In it, Caitlin Hu digests for us Stephen Nissenbaum’s Pulitzer-prize nominated book, The Battle for Christmas, a carefully researched study of how a group of prominent New Yorkers created the St. Nick which became our Santa Claus to domesticate what used to be a drunken brawl of a holiday. This didn’t happen across the pond, so they still have the monsters we are now rediscovering, including the cowbell-slinging Krampus.
Krampus used to be common on greeting cards of the season.
H. J. Blenkinsop has a nice post on her blog about Krampus with a few links to sources. It features the above card. A book of such cards by Monte Beauchamp, Krampus the Devil of Christmas, published in 2010, increased his popularity today. [Correction: Mr. Beauchamp’s comment (below) indicates his first Krampus book was published in 2004, and emerged from previous work in comics.] Paranormal author Joni Mayhan has quite a few more examples of such artwork on her blog. Though I did not find it on the #FolkloreThursday thread, it should be noted that Krampus has an entire web site dedicated to him which features a gallery of such images, as well as a history and list of events. You can even send e-cards.
K. A. Laity, noting that she was into Krampus “before Krampus was cool,” offered up a digital chapbook, When Little Joe the Krampus Met. Not only is it available in print, but you can hear her read it too, with a nice, jazzy musical accompaniment. I liked it because in it (spoiler alert) the kid gets the best of the encounter.
I listened to a good Krampus podcast as well. Though I still have absolutely no idea what “family holiday stories” I will be telling at Episco-Dazzle. Let’s hear it for research as procrastination!
A review of Michael Doherty’s horror comedy Krampus, which had its debut December 4, was shared.
It is written not by a movie critic but by Al Ridenour who, along with founder Al Guerrero, produces the LA Krampusfest, and has a book on Krampus forthcoming. A horror fan “since the age of ten,” he nevertheless was deeply disappointed in the movie, for reasons people attracted to myth and folklore will appreciate. I don’t think I will be tempted.
This, on the other hand, I enjoyed. Below is another artist’s interpretation of the Krampus legend that was hardly authentic (as far as I am aware, at least) but certainly interesting: a shadow puppet play about a Krampus that steals a hard-hearted man’s wife.
After all the American celebration of the Krampus as a corrective to shlock and sentimentality, perhaps we need a corrective to the corrective.
This article from the British Independent by Holly Müller is a good reminder that there is a great deal about the dark side of Krampus festivities that it would be much better not to endorse: an undercurrent of sadism, a glorifying of corporal punishment, a history of sexual predation. Not for nothing, she notes, is the bundle of twigs Krampus carries called a faschi, the root of the word Fascism. Austrian child psychologists are still pushing for a ban on the tradition, which they see as “a malicious disciplinary aid, instilling fear; they ask why we want a symbol of brutality and sexual threat, control, power, patriarchy and base aggression when there is so much of that in the world already?”
That’s a pretty good question. Our Krampus, however, is going to be served with carols and cocoa. I suspect that will mellow the bacchanal. Still…I better start thinking about those stories.