Much like Budapest as a filming location over the past few years, the seasonal monster known as Krampus, the ‘Christmas Devil’, has gotten a lot of play in the media. A holdover from ancient European pagan traditions, Krampus has emerged as an unlikely Christmas anti-hero, beloved by Westerners who have grown weary of the sugar-coated commercialization of the holiday season. It seems that the goatlike demon has become a star of new media–with his own twitter account–as well as making appearances on the silver screen and television.
If you haven’t heard, Krampus is St. Nick’s macabre sidekick, the guy who does the dirty work when Santa has to attend to children on the ‘naughty’ list. This coal-colored, devil-tongued and chain wielding half-goat, half-man demon is known to sneak into children’s bedrooms and kidnap them in a sack, spiriting them away to a fiery corner of the underworld, where they languish for a year.
Though Krampus has long been part of the Christmas tradition in Hungary, its origins can be traced back to Alpine Austria and Germany. In small mountain towns the shadowy figure of Krampus is so ingrained in the culture that there are celebratory parades around this time of year when townsfolk dress in Krampus costumes and masks, arming themselves with gold-painted switches to harass spectators. Krampus parades and ceremonies have recently been taken up by forward-thinking, less traditional communities in America like Portland, Oregon as well as San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington DC. It seems like soon Krampus will be as well traveled as Santa Claus.
It should be noted that the Krampus movie, which came out last year, was so successful (despite not being filmed in Hungary) that there is already a sequel planned. We’re not sure why this age-old Christmas antihero of Central Europe is having his close-up moment now, but you can be sure that his celebrity will only grow. In short, to steal the tagline from the Christmas carol “Santa Claus is coming to town"…you better watch out…
The author, Matt Henderson Ellis gives manuscript critiques and writes about Budapest and other things real and imagined.