07 Dec 2006

Wimpiness Spreads to Mitteleuropa

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Krampus

Reuters reports that efforts are underway to ban Santa’s scary Central European companion Krampus.

As Christmas nears, Austrian children hoping for gifts from Santa Claus will also be watching warily for “Krampus,” his horned and hairy sidekick.

In folklore, Krampus was a devil-like figure who drove away evil spirits during the Christian holiday season.

Traditionally, he appeared alongside Santa around December 6, the feast of St. Nicholas, and the two are still part of festivities in many parts of central Europe.

But these traditions came under the spotlight in Austria this year, after reports last week that Santa — also known as St Nicholas, Father Christmas or Kris Kringle — had been banned from visiting kindergartens in Vienna because he scared some children.

Officials denied the reports, but said from now on only adults the children knew would be able to don Santa’s bushy white beard and red habit to visit the schools.

Now, a prominent Austrian child psychiatrist is arguing for a ban on Krampus, who still roams towns and villages in early December.

Boisterous young men wearing deer horns, masks with battery-powered red eyes, huge fangs, bushy coats of sheep’s fur, and brandishing birchwood rods storm down the streets, confronting spectators gathered to watch the medieval spectacle, which is also staged in parts of nearby Hungary, Croatia and Germany’s Bavaria state.

Anyone who doesn’t dodge or run away fast enough might get swatted — although not hard — with the rod.

“The Krampus image is connected with aggression, and in a world that is anyway full of aggression, we shouldn’t add figures standing for violence… and hell,” child psychiatrist Max Friedrich said.

Hat tip to Karen Myers.

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