December 5th is a day that many European children hide and tremble. Diving under their beds, hiding in the closets, nervously casting glances at the front door. Is he here? Is he coming? Have I been thaaaat naughty? Or will Saint Nicholas cut me a break? Wikipedia reminds us in the entry "Companions of St. Nicholas":
In parts of Austria, Krampus is a scary figure, most probably originating in the Pre-Christian Alpine traditions. Local tradition typically portrays these figures as children of poor families, roaming the streets and sledding hills during the holiday festival. They wore black rags and masks, dragging chains behind them, and occasionally hurling them towards children in their way. These Krampusumzüge (Krampus runs) still exist, although perhaps less violent than in the past.
Today, in Schladming, a town in Styria, over 1200 "Krampus" gather from all over Austria wearing goat-hair costumes and carved masks, carrying bundles of sticks used as switches, and swinging cowbells to warn of their approach. They are typically males in their teens and early twenties, and often get very drunk. They roam the streets of this typically quiet town and hit people with their switches. It is not considered wise for young women to go out on this night, as they are popular targets.
In many parts of Croatia, Krampus is described as a devil, wearing chains around his neck, ankles and wrists, and wearing a cloth sack around his waist. As a part of a tradition, when a child receives a gift from St. Nicolas he is given a golden branch to represent his/hers good deeds throughout the year; however, if the child has misbehaved, Krampus will take the gifts for himself and leave only a silver branch to represent the child's bad acts. Children are commonly scared into sleeping during the time St. Nicolas brings gifts by being told that if they are awake, Krampus will think they have been bad, and will take them away in his sack. In Hungary, the Krampusz is often portrayed as mischievous rather than evil devil, wearing a black suit, a long red tongue, with a tail and little red horns that are funny rather than frightening. The Krampusz wields a Virgács, which is a bunch of golden coloured twigs bound together. Hungarian parents often frighten children with getting a Virgács instead of presents, if they do not behave. By the end of November, you can buy all kinds of Virgács on the streets, usually painted gold, bound by a red ribbon. Getting a Virgács is rather more fun than frightening, and is usually given to all children, along with presents to make them behave.
So, that is the good news for today. Tomorrow, I start of Père Fouettard (the whipfather), the French slice of Holiday Terror for the naughty. Naughty or nice always was pretty softball with our Santa Claus. But these european fellows really make you think.
This morning, I have a meeting about some work and then shopping with K and A. There are new shoes to get and thises and thats for Christmas gifts. I am at the thises and thats level of finality. Then, we will need to post a Facebook invitation up for our party for the youngers...which will include the wonderfully suggested (Thank you Tom!) Yankee Swap. I will detail that more later.
Check out the growing advent calendar here>>