Heute ist Krampustag! From the historical Alpine home of Germanic culture and spreading as far as Argentina and the Pennsylvania Dutch, this is the night for the Krampus to run amok. A figure with connections to the Horned God, Loki, the Lord of Misrule and even Bacchus, Krampus is a creature of the Western European cultural sphere (that’s what you want, William Bennett) who is said to deliver various punishments to children who have been naughty during the year. These punishments include various frights, lashings from birch switches and even — for the nastiest children — being hauled away in a basket and thrown in the river. What, you react like a little temporary punishment for sin is a bad thing! And you worship another creature named Jesus Christ who promises what?
These days in Europe, Krampustag (or in some places Krampusnacht) is celebrated in a number of communities, and has come to feature a Krampuslauf (“Krampus run”) along a main thoroughfare in which people dressed as the Krampus lash out at spectators with birch branches, usually but not always striking out at the legs:
This is an expression of a non-Christian aspect of the December holidays that has been around for more than 2,000 years as Saturnalia or Boxing Day or with the Lord of Misrule: that at the end of the year, normal societal rules are suspended, the bosses serve the servants, license is extended to drink, dance, be insouciant and even express violence within carefully structured limits. This is clearly NOT about the Baby Jesus.
The modern celebration of Krampus is not always angry, either, although it flirts with danger in its cheeky humor:
Have a joyfully free Krampustag.