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Mythical Monsters: Krampus

The Darker Side of Christmas ...

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You’d better watch out

You’d better not cry

You’d better not pout

I’m telling you why…

…Krampus will drag you to hell.

Seriously. Harking from Alpine traditions far predating Christianity, Krampus—who nevertheless has become associated with the Devil—is jolly Saint Nick’s shadowy counterpart, paying visits to all the children on the Naughty List. Krampus is a particularly monstrous demon, he sports cloven hooves and goat legs with dark, wiry hair, wicked curved horns, slavering fangs, and a long, lolling tongue not dissimilar to that of an Asuwang. As Santa climbs down the chimney to deliver his presents to all the good little boys and girls, Krampus claws his way out of the misbehavers’ closets to mete out punishment as he sees fit. Depending on the infraction, he might swat them with a birch rod or, if stronger intervention was necessary, flog them with the chain he keeps tied around his waist, festively festooned with jingling silver bells. For the hopeless cases, he might do the parents a favor and abduct their wicked child back to hell where they belong. Unlike Santa, milk and cookies won’t appease him: his favorite meal is the flesh of small children, particularly after evil deeds have been festering in their souls.

It should be noted that Krampus is not Santa’s nemesis but his helper; together, they instill higher moral character in all the children of the world—whether by shiny presents under the tree or the threat of a demonic beating. Krampus has been primarily a European tradition, notably in Austria and Hungary, but is gaining traction in the United States; many American cities now hold annual Krampuslaufen, or “Krampus Runs,” where celebrators dressed as Krampus run through the streets or participate in pub crawls. To spread the Christmas cheer to loved ones, you can purchase Krampuskarten, cheerful greeting cards featuring Krampus in the midst of punishing children. Want to get into the Krampus Christmas spirit from the comfort of your own home? Krampus (2015) is the perfect family movie for those chilly December evenings, with the added bonus that the children of the household will never misbehave—or sleep—again.

During this holiday season, put aside the rampant consumerism and embrace the true meaning of Christmas: family, togetherness, and threatening children with terrifying demons to illicit their absolute and unquestioning obedience.

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