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Deconstructing December: meet Krampus the dark side of Christmas

In the modern Christmas myth -- at least as it was told in my household -- Santa gives naughty children lumps of coal on Christmas day. While I'm no fan of coal I prefer it to the fate that awaits naughty children in alpine countries. Those children get to meet Krampus.

According to the myth, Krampus is a hairy, demonic creature, beset with rusty bells and chains. He has horns, hooves, and a long dangling tongue. Krampus accompanies Saint Nicholas on his journeys during the Christmas season to punish misbehaving children. Sometimes he stuffs them in a sack or a wash bucket. Sometimes he swats them with tree branches. In almost all cases, he drags the screaming children away to be punished, and depending on the myth, that means drowning, being eaten for Christmas supper, or getting thrown into Hell.

These behaviors and the fact that the name Krampus is derived from the old German word for "claws" sort of makes Krampus the "anti-clause." Celebrations of Krampus are becoming more popular in the United States, but if recent events are any indication, they won't be for long.

Recently Anthony Bourdain had a claymation segment on Krampus yanked from his show on the travel channel because of "sensitivities regarding the Penn State scandal." What, might you ask, does this have to do with the whole Penn State thing? 

Did I forget to mention that Krampus uses his aforementioned tongue to lick the children?

Here's the clip:

This article appears as part of a series. Visit Deconstructing December to see more.

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  1. Chris Hansen: Why don't you have a seat over there Krampus.

    Krampus: Who are you?

    Chris Hansen: I'm Chris Hansen. So, what are you doing visiting underage children with your peppermint schnapps?

  2. OMG, this gets my vote for comment of the week BTW. Literally did a spit take when I read it. Now I need a new computer monitor.