The first chapter of my Mexico journal will be posted shortly, but in the meantime, and in keeping with spirit of the season, I thought I’d share an essay I originally wrote three years ago. Perhaps I’ll make this re-post an annual tradition, like the yearly Christmas TV specials. 🙂
Keep Krampus in Christmas
I would be remiss during this time of season if I did not touch on the most dominant cultural event in the world: Comic-Con. Just kidding. I’m talking, of course, about Christmas—a time for joy, giving, family, and . . . listening to the oppressed majority complain that the secularist heathens of the world have declared war on their beloved holiday. These Christmas purists lament that the true meaning of the holiday has been lost—that we in America have relegated a pivotal symbol of Christmas to the sidelines. You know what? I agree, and it’s high time we rescued this figure from the fringes of the yuletide wastelands and restored him to his rightful place at the forefront of Christmas prominence. So join me in demanding that we keep Krampus in Christmas.
“Krampus?” you may ask, “what the grinch are you talking about?” Well, why don’t you grab a cup of cocoa, sit down by the fire, and let me tell you a Christmas story. In many European traditions, Krampus is a grotesque, devil-like being who accompanies St. Nick during the holiday season. While the latter gives gifts to the good children of the world, Krampus punishes the naughty children in scary ways, and his myth is still prominent in many places around Europe. It’s a shame that Krampus never made the trip to the States with Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and Yule logs. How much better behaved would children be if they feared retribution by Krampus? I mean, what kid nowawadys is really afraid of a little coal in his stocking? Today’s kids need something with a little more oomph to strike the fear of Christmas into them.
Imagine how different our traditions would be if Krampus had made it over here. Song lyrics like “You better watch out,” “He’s making a list,” and “He sees you when you’re sleeping” would carry much darker connotations, while the most famous Christmas poem might have been entirely different: “Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, Krampus was stirring, he stomped on a mouse.” And how much cooler would those claymation Christmas specials have been with a little taste of Krampus? Over time, he could have become one of the more popular Christmas characters and, just as Santa Claus has become more benign over the years (from his darker beginnings), I imagine Krampus taking a similar path (also known as the Godzilla path): the bad guy in earlier films, the good guy in later films. The older films would depict Krampus threatening Christmas while newer films would have him stepping in to save Christmas from some outside threat.
One could also imagine what a day in the life would be like for Santa and Krampus. Do they talk to each other or not? A trip around the world in that tiny sleigh would be a long time to sit there in awkward silence. Do they live together at the North Pole? Talk about the ultimate odd couple! I could see Santa as the Oscar-like slob leaving his red suits all over the place, much to the ire of the uptight, Felix-like Krampus, who constantly yells at Santa to pick up after himself. Or do they never see each other at all except on Christmas Eve? Perhaps they just clock out at the end of the day like the wolf and sheepdog from that Warner Brothers cartoon: “Good night, Claus.” “Good night, Kramp.”
How much different would our decorations be? In Europe men dress as Krampus, carrying chains, bells, and switches to scare kids (and the adults use the Krampus festivals as an excuse to drink all weekend). Perhaps our Christmas lights would be strung on festive chains, and maybe we’d have candy switches instead of candy canes. On Christmas Eve, in addition to leaving milk and cookies for Santa, we might leave beer and brats for Krampus. The possibilities are endless.
So let’s all work together to keep Krampus in Christmas. And remember, kids, if you hear an extra set of hooves on the roof on Christmas Eve, you may just be getting a visit from the malevolent monster himself. Pleasant dreams and Merry Christmas!