All good little boys and girls in America know that if you behave all year, Santa Claus comes down your chimney on Christmas Eve and leaves presents under your tree and in your stocking. And, if you are bad little kid, you get a lump of coal instead.
The thought of getting coal while all of your friends get Xboxes is a good deterrent when you are young. But as most kids get older and more jaded, they tend to roll the dice on bad behavior, figuring Santa will let a few indiscretions slide. However, something tells me that today’s youth wouldn’t be so cavalier if instead of getting coal, they knew that being naughty meant that Santa’s evil sidekick would stuff them in a sack on Christmas Eve and haul them away from their loved ones forever.
It turns out American kids have it easy. In other countries, there is a yang to Santa’s yin – Chris Cringle’s evil Christmas counterpart who punishes the naughty with extreme prejudice. In the Alps, it’s Krampus, a long-tongued, horned demonic creature who carries bad kiddies back to his lair, where he eats them. In the Netherlands and Belgium, Sinterklaas is accompanied by Zwarte Piet (which translates in English to “Black Peter”), who hauls naughty children off to Spain. (Which apparently is a horribly scary notion to Dutch kids, but sounds kind of awesome to me. Who doesn’t want a free trip to Spain, especially when the alternative is being eaten by a Christmas demon?)
Black Peter has been a bit of a PR nightmare for the Netherlands in recent years and rightfully so, since portraying him in Christmas parades involves white Dutchmen donning blackface (which thankfully, we frown upon). They have tried other colored Piets at the festivals – 2006’s celebration was a virtual Benetton ad of Peters – but the Dutch keep trying to go back to Zwarte Piet, which continues to garner protests.
Krampus, however, is having a bit of a PR bonanza this year. NPR recently ran a story about the increasingly-popular Krampus gatherings that are taking place across America, which involve people wearing Krampus costumes (including actual bones around their necks) as they toast the sinister creature. Also, this year celebrity chef Anthony Bordain produced a stop-motion animation Krampus story for his No Reservations Christmas special, but the Travel Chanel ultimately decided to pull it. (Luckily, you can still see it on YouTube.)
I think bringing Krampus to America is long overdue. Kids today have gotten too soft. We live in a society where everyone who participates gets a trophy and you can no longer play dodge ball in gym class because it’s considered cruel. Long before Walt Disney came along and sanitized them, all of the original classic fairy tales involved slaughtering or torturing kids who got out of line. (Read the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales sometime, it’s practically a little kid cookbook.) Children today have gotten out of control. We need a monster with horns like the devil and a tongue like Gene Simmons to scare these kids straight before they grow up to be entitled, intolerable jerks.
And it’s not just the kids who could use a little Krampus in their lives. I think Santa Claus could use an enforcer by his side to keep him safe during Christmas. It seems like in every Christmas movie you see, Santa is being kidnapped, incapacitated or otherwise harmed. He can’t always count on Buddy the Elf to save him from the evil Park Rangers or Jack Skellington to rescue him from Oogie Boogie’s layer. Jolly ol’ St. Nick needs an ass kicking sidekick to protect him from things like rogue martians and a job stealing Tim Allen.
Maybe Krampus can swing by the Netherlands too and replace Zwarte Piet. The Dutch may balk at “Mauve Peter,” but they should be on board with an evil monster who seems more than capable of hauling their children off to Spain (if he doesn’t eat them first). I’m not sure they could get Krampus to don the ridiculous Renn Fair outfit and gold chains that Piet usually wears, but life is all about compromises.
So for all of you parents out there, forget about the empty threats of a coal-filled stocking this Christmas. Put your kids on notice. Let them know that if they get out of line, Krampus is coming for them – and he’s really hungry.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.