Thursday, 19 December 2019

A Very Krampus Christmas

Long story short, I was faced with two little students expecting a Christmas quiz when I was expecting a normal lesson. Not liking to disappoint, and being totally rubbish at quizzes, I set to thinking what we could do with Christmas.

Krampus, my brain whispered, tell 'em about Krampus.

For heaven's sake, brain. These are nice, quietly-brought up children, they don't need to hear about Krampus.

I thought of Christmas lights (Krampus in the firelight). Christmas traditions (Krampus in a parade), Christmas presents (Krampus likes children in his sack), Christmas beginnings...

Great, no Krampus there, only early people clustered around an enormous fire protecting them from hungry creatures lurking in the dark night at the edge of the firelight.

So, I started to tell the nice, quietly-brought up children about how Christmas, in the very, very beginning was about being glad to be alive and trying to stay that way, about bringing light to dark times and making it through to spring with your fellow people beside you.

'But what about Jesus? Was he by the fire?' asked Small Boy.

'Jesus was in the manger!' his sister shouted across the table. She is a big sister so is used to shouting facts.

'Christmas didn't start with Jesus,' I ventured, regretting this as soon as my mouth dropped me in it. Small Boy looked at me like I was setting up a cauldron and reaching the Juicy Kid Recipe Book from the cupboard.

'Jesus came later,' I carried on, aware of two sets of eyes fixed on me. 'Christmas first then Jesus was born and then his birthday was...mixed with Christmas.'

I am so terrible at this sort of thing.

'But...but,' Small Boy stuttered. 'If Jesus wasn't born at Christmas, when was he born? When is it his birthday?'

We experienced a small diversion into religious history, during which time, somehow, Small Boy became fixated with the idea of pretending to the nursery children at school that he was Herod coming for them. I have no idea how this happened.

Big Sister told him nursery children were too sweet to scare but that they weren't cute by the time they hit Reception so he should chase those children instead

Desperate to come back from the complexities of religious historical figures being used to torment small children we, inevitably now I see it written down, swung back round to Krampus.

To be fair, I did try first to talk about St Nicholas but there is only so much mileage to be had from the idea of a real live elderly gentleman going round houses under cloak of darkness to break in with presents. No matter the link between St Nicholas and Santa, this behaviour only washes if it is Santa doing it.

Inexorably, I said, 'And then there's Krampus.'

At this point, Small Boy was whisked away to his club, leaving just after the reveal that Krampus stuffed bad children into his sack and ate them.

It turns out he doesn't eat them but I was caught on the hop and Small Boy suggested the eating and I agreed, then he left before I realised I had agreed. Readers with experience of small boys will understand how this came about. There are only so many directions the adult human brain can look at one time. Anyway, it turns out Krampus likes to whip children so it was possibly better to say he ate them.

This left myself and Big Sister with the internet and she wanted to see what Krampus looked like. I went to Wikipedia, knowing there wouldn't be anything too terrifying there, but then being proved utterly wrong.

We found this picture which appeared to accurately depict the moment Krampus arrived for Small Boy while Big Sister looked on and Baby Brother was kept safe,

Big Sister laughed at Small Boy being taken then noticed St Nicholas behind Krampus.

'What's St Nicholas doing?' she cried incredulously. 'He's just standing there, staring!'

Well, apparently the role of the early version of Santa included allowing Krampus to take away small children and whip/eat them. Who knew? I think some of us might have suspected though, given Santa's oversight of Rudolph's talents all those years and his inability to give me the garage I wanted in 1975.

From here, I tried to find a nice tradition and somehow ended up with the Yule Goat. Readers, just don't go there. I thought Krampus was bad enough until I found this image which appears to show a giant astounded goat carrying Bill Murray dressed as a far-too-mischievous Santa.

Seriously, though, Bill, what were you thinking?

We ended the lesson in high spirits, having realised there remains nothing scary about Halloween once you've taken a closer look at Christmas and Santa arriving at your door on the back of a confused goat, offering an enormous bowl of stinking brew to be shared amongst your neighbours, naughty or nice. The side-eye to this is that we had more idea where the plague came from and decided Santa was likely complicit in the Black Death as well.

I left the lesson wondering why on earth I ever thought I could become a kindly aunty figure to small children. I should give in and embrace my role as a friendly witch unlikely to use my Kid recipe book and much more likely to introduce points of view you never knew you needed about Santa, the plague, what might be in the wassail and why Santa's boots appear to be made out of tiger feet.

After all this, one comfort was that Krampus had proved to be the least of my worries. The next time I'll just start with him and avoid the rest. I still might leave out the whipping, though.

Really, Krampus! You don't need whips to terrify small children, you only need yourself.


© Amanda J Harrington 2019

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