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!

The Hidden Cost of Food

We are a nation of excess. From mega grocery stores to cable companies offering hundreds of channels, America has become a nation of gluttonous consumerism.  If we continue to use our natural resources at the rate we are going, our way of life will come crashing down. But, is this a bad thing? After all, we haven’t always had so many goods to choose from.

I’m brining this up because of a recent trip to my local Trader Joe’s. Friday night, right after work, I headed over there for some fresh produce and needed staples .

A sign greeted customers at the front door that read “Our refrigerators broke down last night, we lost our perishables, please bear with us as we restock”. I sighed as I walked in. “Great”, I thought, “it figures the night I decide to shop they are out of produce”. To my surprise the store was fully stocked, if it wasn’t for the sign, I wouldn’t have had any idea that they had experienced mechanical failures. I had my choice of produce.  The dairy section offered a variety of milk, yogurt and butter. The freezer sections was full, if anything, there was more than usual. I had to ask, “what’s up with that sign”?

Turns out, someone had noticed the freezers had shut down Thursday night. A few employees stayed late, throwing out food, not knowing how long the perishables had sat “warm”. By 5am Friday morning, trucks had arrived with replacements, as had a technician who fixed the power supply to the freezers. By the time I arrived to shop, 12 hours later, everything in the store was “fresh” a clerk proudly explained.

As I stood in line to pay for my food, I thought about this and the food I had in my cart. It dawned on me, that not only did the store throw out perfectly good food, the company was able to replenish its supplies within hours. I noticed the produce in the cart in front of me. Did the lady know most of what she had was out of season? That we now come to not only expect a well-stocked store, but also food that once would have not been available year round and that it comes with a hidden cost?

It wasn’t all that long ago, we consumers knew that peaches in the winter meant eating them out of cans, and that tomatoes only tasted vine ripened in the dog days of summer. Once you could set your “seasonal” clock by the items in your local grocery store. Just about the time you thought you couldn’t eat another dry orange or soft apple without losing your mind, in came the strawberries, blackberries and peaches. Spring had arrived! For a child, this could be almost as magical as Christmas. No more canned fruit, heavy on the syrup but light in taste. One bite of a fresh berry could put any child in ecstasy.

Now, we come to expect stores to stock our favorite foods year round and will seek out those who stock the most, without thinking about the true cost of eating out of season. That produce we expect to have ready available comes to our tables from hundreds of miles away, and at an expense many do not realize. From the over use of pesticides for bigger harvest yields to the fuel it takes to truck in all that food, the foods we eat are coming to us at a price we may soon not be able to pay. It’s coming to us at an expense to our environment.

So what’s my point? Why even bring this up? I bring it up because if we don’t start setting self-limits on what we eat and when we eat it, very soon the choice will be out of our hands, either by rising food prices or by a tightening of fuel usage; at some point it may not make economical sense to truck food hundreds of miles.  It is time to think globally, act locally, at least for me. This is the realization I came to as I stood in line. I’m going to learn how to can seasonal food, so that at least during the winter months, as I open yet another can of peaches or beans, I will be assured my food did not come with a hidden cost.