Face it America, we deserve a visit from Krampus

krampus-tradition-LP-trendyhalloween

I had planned on finishing my fantasyland series this week with a look at how the 60’s Flower Power turned into the New Age power of thought, but a cold has got me down. So instead, I thought I’d follow up last week’s Christmas rant with a re-blog of my 2015 look at Krampus.

Sunday I binged watched HBO (you know I am sick when I sit and watch TV for hours on end) and wonders of wonders, the movie Krampus aired in the afternoon. It’s a movie that’s part comedy, part horror and while these two things do not pair well together, Krampus delivers on both. It’s a lesson on what happens when the spirit of Christmas is lost and how it is important to value those we love. It quickly became my second favorite Christmas movie.

So as I cough and sneeze my way back to health, I offer this. Things you may not know about the Krampus. Enjoy!

One of my biggest complaints against the war over the words “Merry Christmas” is that it isn’t all that friggin merry any more. Parents consumers battle for toys to stuff under the Christmas tree for kids who already have more than they deserve and will, without hesitation, ask for more just weeks after the season is over.

We all know about the horrors of Black Friday. Each year millions of parents rush out Thanksgiving night in the hopes of snatching up presents at low low prices. Part of this “seasonal” tradition involves trampling other parents or fist fighting over the last X-Box or big screen TV. For what? So that little Johnny or Suzie will wake up to find that Santa has visited late in the night; a man who is no relation to them, but yet for some unknown reason leaves expensive gifts for children to enjoy? Kinda creepy if you think about it. This tradition of allowing a stranger to enter your home while you are sleeping in order to shower your children with gifts. On top of that, he seems to have a naughty and nice list. Bet you’d be calling 911 if some stranger told your child “if you’re nice to me, I’ll give you a iPad”. But I digress. It’s not Santa’s fault Christmas is now a consumer’s wet dream. We’ve conditioned ourselves to take this one time of year to ensure all children, whether they are naughty or nice, get exactly what they want, even if it means running over someone else in aisle 3 to get it. What’s so merry about that?

Not that long ago Santa’s visit was used as a threat to make little children behave. They were reminded all year long that naughty deeds would ensure that Santa skipped them on the next Christmas Eve, or worse yet, leave coal as a reminder of his disapproval. I actually remember hearing a parent once sigh and say, “I was going to buy Richard a bike this Christmas, but he’s really becoming a dick, so it’s clothes and a basketball this year”.

Now that we (and by we I say Americans) are so enamored with the idea of the perfect commercialized Christmas you would be hard-pressed to find even one parent who uses Santa as a behavior modification tool. Santa is now every child’s beloved uncle whose loves is unconditional. What America needs more than ever is a reminder that not all children are worthy of such lavish gifts. Sometimes children (and their parents)need to be reminded that while they should always get what they deserve, what they deserve is not always pleasant. What we need is Krampus, Santa’s evil sidekick who plays bad cop to Santa’s good cop.

1920s_krampus-snick1

Don’t know who Krampus is?

Well then here are 5 things Americans may not know about Krampus.

Krampus2

What the hell is a Krampus?

According to Norse mythology, Krampus was once believed to be the son of Hel, ruler of the Norse underworld. In Norse mythology, Hel is the ruler of Helheim, the realm of the dead. She is the youngest child of the evil god Loki. Hel is most often described as a horrible hag, half alive and half dead, with a gloomy and grim expression.

So, what does the child of Hel look like?

His appearance is befitting of a demon from hell. Americans would recognize him as the devil, with matted fur, one cloven hoof, the other human, sharp teeth and large horns. He is usually depicted carrying chains or bundles of birch branches to hit bad children with. Other times he is depicted with a sack, which he uses to carry naughty children to the underworld where he will later torture and possibly even eat them.

krampus-christmas-4

WTF? Why Christmas?!

In the 17th Century, some countries bordering the Alps reintroduced this once pagan monster into their Christmas traditions. Most likely because they thought their children were growing soft and needed to toughen up. They were experiencing extreme effects of the Little Ice Age, and thought the kiddies needed to be reminded “life is hell, deal with”. Or maybe they thought this yearly grab for presents to be getting a little out of hand. Either way, Krampus, demon from hell, became a part of the Christmas gift giving tradition.

No, seriously, WFT? Christmas?!

The night (December 5th) preceding St. Nicholas’ feast is known as Krampushnacht or Krampus Night. This is the night the Krampus comes out and chases down all the naughty children, beating them and stuffing them in his sack to take back to hell. Those that are left are given gifts by Santa (or then, St. Nicholas) during the following night. Some legends suggest the Krampus hunted down naughty children throughout the Christmas season. Today, some Austrian towns and villages continue the celebration by encouraging men to dress as the Krampus in order to scare the local children. This is known as Krampuslauf—a Krampus Run.

Krampus_at_Perchtenlauf_Klagenfurt

The modern Krampus has a new PR agent

1284487009_bottom_krampus

While Americans may cringe at the idea of a demon sidekick for Santa, Europeans love and celebrate Krampus. These countries have access to his image in the form of candy, postcards, Christmas Cards, ornaments, T-shirts, hats, books, collectable horns, and this year thanks to Hollywood, his own horror movie, Krampus. The demon is becoming so main stream in Europe, some feel he is being overly commercialized and will soon lose his demonic power to scare naughty children into behaving. Who would have ever guessed mass marketing could be used as a tool for good?

But before Krampus becomes too cool, to hip for his original purpose I propose we bring him to America. Not to chase and steal naughty children but rather their parents, who act demonically themselves in the days leading up to Christmas. Perhaps a Krampus running around Walmart and the like is just the Christmas miracle many of us have been waiting for.

Works Referenced

NGO Who is Krampus? Explaining the Horrific Christmas Demon http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131217-krampus-christmas-santa-devil/

Smithsonian.com The Origin of Krampus http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/krampus-could-come-you-holiday-season-180957438/?no-ist

And of course the anonymous internet and its wonderful collection of photos.

Vintage Christmas Postcard
Vintage Christmas Postcard

Merry Friggin Christmas!

Fantasyland Part 2 The myth of Thanksgiving

There is probably nothing accurate about this picture.

Happy Sunday everyone! Before we begin, I want to give a big thanks to everyone who responded to my last post and a big hello to my new followers. You all made me feel a bit better knowing I am not alone in my worries about our current situation.

To my fellow Americans, I hope you had a pleasant holiday weekend. Did you enjoy your Thanksgiving feast? I made plans to stay home and enjoy one of the last warm days of the season by doing yard work. I can’t remember a 70-degree (21 celsius) day in November since moving from California many moons ago. But I changed plans and headed to a good friend’s house for dinner. After all, isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about? Spending time with those for whom you are grateful? Kinda like how the Pilgrims were grateful for the helpful Wampanoag tribe as they struggled to make ends meet in their new environment. At least this is the myth we teach our children.

The story we tell ourselves concerning the relationship between the Pilgrims and the Indians is the corner stone to the foundation of the making of America myth. Even though the Pilgrims were not Americans, and not in the least bit interested in starting a new country, the whitewashed story we tell ourselves about them bleeds into the myth of how our country was started. It is one of the first things we teach small school children about America; how early settlers tried to make peace with hostile Indians. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact is historians do not know much about the first Thanksgiving other than a few lines in a letter from Edward Winslow dated Dec. 11, 1621:

..after we had gathered the fruit of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the company almost a week, at which time amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain, and others.  

Historians cannot be sure if the local tribe was invited to the harvest feast or if they just came around after hearing gunfire. One thing we can be certain is that the feast was not something special, nor was it as we are taught, the Pilgrim’s way of thanking the local Wampanoag tribe for teaching them how to plant and harvest in this new world If it were, Winslow would have made much ado about the feast and would have padded himself on the back for thanking the Indians for their assistance.

Speaking of new world the other persistent myth, and part of our corner stone, is the idea that the Pilgrims (who by the way called themselves “Separatists” not Pilgrims) left England for North America to peacefully practice their religion. In actuality the Separatists left England and first went to Holland, eventually settling in the city of Leiden. Winslow found that Holland afforded them “peace and liberty”. If the Separatists were only looking for religious freedom they would have stayed. But secular needs were wanting in Holland; they found it hard to make a living and harder still to identify as English, so they made out for the New World hoping for a “better and easier life”.

Unfortunately for the indigenous people the Separatists eventually found life better, though not easier. It is true that the local tribes educated them about what to plant and how to plant it, but as the first wave of Separatists thrived others followed and the fragile peace between the groups grew strained. Which leads us to the next recorded “thanksgiving”.

In 1637, in retaliation for the murder of a man the settlers believed the Wampanoags killed, they burned a nearby village, killing as many as 500 men, women, and children. Following the massacre, William Bradford, then Governor of Plymouth, wrote: …

From that day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanks giving for subduing the Pequots and for “the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a Governor was in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.

So to summarize: America celebrates a holiday tradition that was decreed to be a day of thanks by a group of British settlers in honor of a bloody victory over a group of people that included burning to death women and children.

It became an official national holiday in 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln who issued the proclamation of thanksgiving following a request from writer Sarah Josepha Hale, who asked that the day “become, permanently, an American custom and institution.” One has to wonder which part of the custom she wished to institute.

Our American tradition of taking a day to give thanks for what we have is fine. I think we can all agree that it is a good idea to at least once a year, gather friends and family around and show love with gifts food. But isn’t it time we stopped believing in the myth of Thanksgiving? We don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as the saying goes. We could just as easily keep the spirit of the holiday as it has evolved to mean without having to keep the myth of the first thanksgiving. If we have any hope of leaving the world of fantasyland, we must stop clinging to fantasy.

The truth is:

The Separatists wanted to be separate from the Protestant religion, not English identity.

The Separatists’ secular needs outweighed their religious needs so they left Holland for the New World.

As new settlers arrived they demanded more and more land for themselves (and you though immigration is a problem now? Imagine being indigenous back then) without a thought to the people already living on it.

In a span of a few short years the settlers went from trading with the Indians to thinking nothing of wiping out whole villages and tribes & giving “thanks” to God for allowing them their victories.

Our nation is steep in myths about who we are and were we came from. I would argue that the very reason we find ourselves living in fantasyland now is precisely because we have an abundance of stories like these. America was built on fantasy. From the stories we tell about our founding fathers to stories we now share on Facebook. It is hard for us to tell fact from fiction because so much of what we believe is based on fantasy. Let’s change that one story at a time.

Next up, the “War on Christmas, or how Fox news gets you spend more money”.

Works cited

Mayflower History.com Primary Sources A Relation or Journal of the Proceedings of the English Plantation Settled at Plymouth

Smithsonian.com Edward Winslow