Christmas is brilliantly evil isn’t it? The snide snub of being given a deliberately shit gift, the brimming resentment between young siblings over who’s got the better presents, the inevitable animosity over who decides the festive TV viewing schedule, the bitter violence resulting from seemingly innocent board games - there’s a lot of ill will entangled within the glitter of yuletide.
…but none of it gets more sinister than Krampus.
Now, you will presumably be familiar with Santa’s naughty-and-nice lists. All the good kids get exciting treats as a reward for being such little sweethearts, while the naughty scamps get coal and depressed. But this sort of downheartedness isn’t enough for the cruel, heartless parents of Central Europe. The threat of no toys isn’t deemed sufficient to curtail the naughtiness of their offspring, so they go to extreme lengths to ensure that Christmas is inextricably linked with a culture of extreme fear, terror and dread. And horror. And gore.
And so they tell tales of Krampus.
Krampus is a sort of malevolent beast who exists solely to punish the children on the naughty list. All across Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, southern Bavaria and the Czech Republic, little children live in fear of being royally fucked up by an evil Christmas tyrant.
He has cloven hooves and the horns of a goat. He carries rusty chains and sinister bells. He swats indiscriminately at passing children with bundles of birch branches. He carries a sack, in which the naughty kids are placed for drowning, or transportation to hell. He’s a bit of a shit, really.
The tradition of Krampuskarten offers an alternative to the usual festive Christmas cards of holly, robins and cartoon snowmen. Krampuskarten demonstrate the variety of things that Krampus is willing to do in order to punish the children of the naughty list. It’s not enough for him to carry out his task with the ruthless efficiency of an abattoir worker with a bolt-gun; no, he likes to get creative, the sick fuck. He’ll chain hundreds of little ’uns together and march them to hell, like some kind of Nazi commandant loading a train bound for Dachau. He’ll pick a child up by the ears, then pull them apart until their head splits in two like a Mortal Kombat death move. He’ll pull kids’ hearts out and barbecue them on a spit. He’ll kick a crying child to the ground and strangle them with a chain. He’ll load babies onto a broomstick and fly them into a mighty inferno. Merry fucking Christmas.
Of course, the scariest element that lies inescapably within all of this is that Krampus is not the thing to fear most.
He may spread a terrifying swathe of child-ruining destruction, but he’s just part of the system. He needs to exist to fulfil his supposedly necessary evil.
No, the real fear figure here is Santa. He makes the lists. He knows that every child on the naughty list is going to suffer some kind of despicable end. He’s not just complicit in the genocide, he’s actively participating – nay, controlling.
He could save every one of those children by turning a blind eye to their misbehaviour and just sticking them on the nice list (hey, only he would know, he could just give them a crap present and hope they take the hint), but no. He, and he alone, is condemning those children to excruciating torture and unimaginably agonising deaths.
What a bastard.