December 5th is the feast of St. Nickolaus and according to tradition in some parts of the world, on this day, the good saint is allowed to come back to earth with presents to reward “the good.” And he doesn’t come back alone. In different parts of Europe, St Nick is accompanied by various other figures, usually folks charged with punishing the not-so good. Fitting with our theme of Christmas monsters, may I direct our attention to everyone’s favorite Swiss mountain troll, Krampus.
Krampus is a folk traditon that stretches back a least a couple centuries. Krampus is an immense, horned beast, often wearing chains that St Nick unleashes, and a wicker basket to steal away wicked little children. Americans would have little problem describing Krampus as a demon but our European neighbors have a more nuanced and subtle taxonomy of such creatures. A more standard prop is a scourge of branches that Krampus uses to swat young maidens on their behinds, though I gather in recent years that practice is on the decline.
During the “Krampuslauf” — literally “the running of the Krampus” — a lovely demented Christmas parade — a horde of Krampus runs through small German towns terrifying children and thus inspiring obedience. St. Nick strolls along behind wearing the mitre of a pope and dispenses presents to the kids that Krampus hasn’t whisked away. No, I’m not kidding:
Krampus is just about the best Christmas monster there is, in our humble opinion. Krampus is definitely non-human as evidenced by its long horns, often dangling red tongue and cloven hooves. Krampus is scary, but also a bit playfully disruptive in that sense of carnival. Krampus’ job is to be terrifying and nothing dissuades it from this task, no act-three conversion or mushy sentimentality. And as a monster that stays monstrous, we at the DailyNightmare.com salute Krampus as one of the Ten Best Christmas Monsters.