KrampusNacht artwork by Curtis Copeland, StateoftheOzarks Artist.
What is Krampus and what is Krampus Nacht?
Krampus dates back to pre-Christian European mountain culture. He is a dark Yule figure who — as Christianity spread into the Alps — was tied to St. Nicholas and St. Nicholas’ Eve (December 5). Or perhaps St. Nicholas became tied to Krampus. It’s a little difficult to sort out.
Across the Alps, this strange being is known by many names, including Knecht Ruprecht, Certa, Perchten, Black Peter, Schmutzli, Pelznickel, and Klaubauf. Creatures of the forested mountains all, they represent the growing dark of the season and are often not all-bad or all-good.
In legend, they sometimes help the Christ Child. Sometimes the dark figures frighten the not-so-good children but then are dragged away by a benevolent Santa (and accompanying angel in white-starched robe). Sometimes the dark creatures simply represent the comic relief as they follow along behind St. Nicholas.
In their most rambunctious forms, the Krampus are a terrifying sight — appearing to to modern, Westernized Christian eyes as a goat-headed demon rattling chains and sticking out his tongue — and are easy to misconstrue.
Obviously, this goat-headed demon has no place in a modern Christmas filled with cheery lights, plastic Nativities, soothing music and a plush goodwill toward mankind? Right?
Here’s where all the “nice” people nod their heads.
No less than the writer of Ecclesiastes speaks of the need to accept the complex problems of duality. “For everything there is a season… A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.”
Ancient — some would say primitive — peoples accepted the duality of our short time on earth and its inherent problems:
Just as the earth itself goes through a time of darkness and cold, so too we as humans pass through seasons of darkness. Depression. Tears. Fear. Death. These things are real.
But a modern American society says depression is uncomfortable. Best to ignore it. Put on a happy face. Pretend. And when that fails? Medicate. Heavily.
What are we doing to ourselves?
SOTO KrampusNacht, Friday, December 6, Hollister, MO
Why is Krampus and KrampusNacht important?
If the earth itself goes through the cold damp of the soul, how much more are we allowed? The short answer — and if I may be so bold as to say it, the Christian Bible encourages — an internal honesty. Especially in the darkness. The cold damp. The long night. As Christians, we sing of a God of truth and honesty. But when was the last time we were honest with ourselves?
That’s where Krampus comes in handy.
This European folk tradition has survived centuries because it speaks to our need to play out these problematic, complex roles. We cannot stave off death (for we are mortals). We cannot stop up our hearts to prevent the darkness (nor should we try). Rather, we should accept the darkness as a natural part of living, experience the catharsis of defeat, and rise again.
Stronger. Lighter. Brighter.
Our own springtime of the soul.
For without winter, there really isn’t a spring. So let us experience the revelry and the catharsis. Let us experience the cold dark in all its intensity — the fun, the fear, the dread, the hope — and emerge better able to take on a new season.
SOTO KrampusNacht, Friday, December 6, Hollister, MO
Why is Krampus and KrampusNacht important for Hollister?
Krampusnacht is extraordinarily important to the Hollister and Branson communities for several key reasons.
Our communities are inundated with a seemingly endless commercial Christmas. Wal-Mart begins the “holiday” season at Labor Day. And here in Branson, Halloween and Thanksgiving are breezed over in favor of a Christmas that — for frontline employees — feels to last a thousand nights.
I know. I used to work it.
By the first week of December — when the hope and wonder and magic of Christmas should be fresh as a recently cut branch of sweet pine — we would rather blow our brains out with a candy cane gun than listen to one more rendition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This is not a festive and holy celebration.
It’s saccharine, industrial-strength hell with stripy elf socks and an inane soundtrack permanently stuck on loop.
For those ready to blow my brains out with a candy cane gun for saying such terrible things, let me add, “I do, truly, love Christmas.” But what commercial America has done to the holy days is indeed profanity in the name of greed.
So let’s stop freaking out over Krampus, shall we?
During a gloriously dark KrampusNacht, we get to take a break from the overly-saccharine, overly-sensitive, overly-everything activities of the season. We lay aside the demands of the holidays, the demands of having the perfect tree, the perfect gifts, the perfect family, the perfect family photos, and kick back and have fun!
And leave the demands of our society outside for awhile.
There are only a handful of cities in North America that even have a KrampusNacht. It is a wonderful opportunity to make Hollister stand out above the crowd and attract attention — good attention, in the long run — proving that we are an authentic, creative, quirky community offering real experiences outside the norm.
The Ozarks were settled by not only Scots-Irish but also German immigrants who brought with them their stories, their folklore, and their traditions. Who knows? Maybe up in the mountains — before being banished by the short-sighted church — Krampus once roamed in the Ozarks.
It’s time we brought him back. We’ll all be happier for it.
Joshua Heston, StateoftheOzarks Editor-in-Chief
Sunday School Director, Deacon, Smyrna Baptist Church, Rogersville, MO