Happy Eve of St. Nicholas Day!
If you’re in the states, you may not know or care much about this delightful holiday, but if you’re in France I hope you’re gearing up to hear some grandmas extol the man with tales of how he once resurrected a trio of lost and hungry children who were “lured inside by a wicked butcher who killed and salted them in a large tub”.
Meanwhile I know the good people of The Netherlands are preparing for Sinterklaas by putting shoes and carrots outside their houses, and awaiting the arrival of the saint and his “six-to-eight black men” who will leave candy and presents for the good, and pretend to beat and kidnap the bad.
Incidentally, this threatening to beat naughty children with sticks and rods, “shake a bag of ashes” in their general direction, or chase them with large, ear-piercing bells is a common theme around Europe when it comes to St. Nick. I guess everyone has a dark side. But no one seems to do it better than the German-speaking countries. Why? Because they’re not afraid to bring out the big guns — the Krampus.
Santa’s demonic antithesis, the beastly Krampus creeps out of old alpine tales, hooves and horns ablaze, ready to murder bad kids, or minimum drag them back to his lair for who-knows-what action. His sinister moniker comes from the German word krampen, or claw, of which he has many.
Seriously, it’s like Stanley Kubrick stole Christmas. I wonder if Krampus-speak sounds something not unlike this sweet caroling, which I have to imagine roughly translates into “Merry Christmas, motherfuckers.” Seriously, this guy makes the Grinch look like a sad kitten. People are weird.
And while we’re talking beasties in the night, check out intrepid photographer Charles Freger’s epic collection of Europe’s eccentric “wild men” who dress up in fabulous and terrifying beast-gear to celebrate various holidays and put fear into the hearts of children. They’re pretty inspirational if you ask me.