Old-School Christmas


Krampus the Christmas demon is staging a comeback, reports Franklin Harris:

Conscripts in the War on Christmas

A scary, devilish, goat-like fellow with long horns and a bad attitude, Krampus originated centuries ago in German-speaking areas of Europe, where he was especially popular in the Alps.

While Santa bribes children into good behavior with the promise of presents, Krampus keeps them in line with threats of punishment. Santa carries a bag full of toys. Krampus carries a bag filled with naughty boys and girls….

[T]he Austrian state of Salzburg now has more than 180 Krampus clubs devoted to celebrating the long-lost Christmas figure. Most have sprung up in just the past 20 years.

Now, every Dec. 5, club members recreate the traditional Krampus celebration. They dress in ghoulish Krampus costumes and head out for a night of carousing, which sounds a lot like how adults currently celebrate Halloween in the United States.

Harris describes the Krampus revival as a European phenomenon, but I'm happy to see it has established a beachhead in San Francisco too. The broader tradition of mumming that the Krampus celebrations represent persists in a different form in Philadelphia, where the annual Mummers Parade falls on the Seventh Day of Christmas.

A few years ago an Austrian psychiatrist reportedly called for banning Krampus, on the grounds that "in a world that is anyway full of aggression, we shouldn't add figures standing for violence…and hell." The doctor doesn't seem to have gotten anywhere, to judge from the devilish figure's busy holiday schedule this year. Keep your confederates mumming, boys: Krampus is rising again!