Growing up in the Czech Republic, I experienced some of the scarier sides of Christmas. Czech parents often hire actors who come dressed as Mikuláš (St. Nick) and the devil. Their job is to literally scare children into being good. It sounds silly, but when you’re five years old, a chain-bearing devil is pretty darn terrifying. But nothing is as scary as Austria’s Krampus.
History of Krampus
You may have heard of Krampus if you’re an avid Netflix watcher. I watched the comedy-horror movie with a friend last year and was equal parts entertained and horrified. You can watch the trailer at the end of this post.
The concept of Krampus isn’t unique to Austria. Most European countries have a version of him. They look a little different in every country. The official Krampus visual description is as follows:
“A mangled, deranged face with bloodshot eyes tops a furry black body. Giant horns curl up from his head, displaying his half-goat, half-demon lineage. Behind this terror, a dozen more stomp through the snow of the streets of Lienz, Austria, among a din of cowbell jangles. The creatures dash through the streets, chasing giggling children and adults alike, poking them with sticks and scaring some with the realization that they were naughty this year.”The Smithsonian
Should Christmas be Scary?
In America, the concept of a scary creature doesn’t seem very Christmasy. But it wasn’t always this way! Listening to classical Christmas songs like “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” you may have heard the lyric about “scary ghost stories.”
The explanation for this is quite long. But basically, it also comes from the same European traditions that gave birth to Krampus! You can read more about that here.
America has a specific way of celebrating Christmas and Halloween. Even Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas also warns us that there should be a definite line between the two holidays. This is a little different in Europe. Because anything associated with magic comes with two sides.
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