Looking for Krampus: Some holiday traditions scare the living daylights out of kids

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

We have this weird tradition in the United States that one month before celebrating the birth of Christ, we get up very early in the morning and wage a battle inside retail outlets.

We hunt for bargains, and heaven help those who get in the way. Not all of us, but a lot of us. I lean towards sleeping in and doing very little during Black Friday other than watching some football games and lazying around.

The Black Friday frenzy has been so successful commercially that a lot of countries have adopted it in addition to their own unique traditional celebrations. But I am glad we have not done the same with some of theirs, because there are a lot of weird holiday traditions in the world.

For example, on Dec. 5 in many parts of Europe, St. Nicholas visits all the children and checks whether their shoes are in the window. If they are nice and shiney, he leaves a present. If the kids have been bad, he calls in Krampus, who takes them away to a very bad place - the children, that is. I don’t know what happens to their shoes.

This is a tradition probably best left in Europe. No need to scare kids out of their minds. They are all bad to some degree over the course of a year.

I actually had the opportunity of being on Krampus watch on a few Dec. 5 evenings when growing up in Europe, and remember going to bed thinking that I should have been better. I was staring at the window looking out for a flying or crawling Krampus, so I could hide somewhere before he tried to grab me.

I wasn’t all that bad, but on nights like that the things I shouldn’t have done raced through my mind. My grades weren’t all that good, either. I didn’t know if Krampus took that into consideration or just went by general behavior.

Krampus never came, and there was always something in my shoes the next morning, which meant that St. Nicholas was pleased with me and called off his tough guy.

I liked it better after I found out that the American Santa doesn’t care about shiney shoes, but slides down the chimney on Christmas Eve to bring presents to all the good boys and girls. The bad ones get coal in their stockings, but don’t get hauled off by Krampus.

It’s a lot easier on the nerves this way.

In Austria, Krampus doesn’t take bad kids anywhere, just beats them with branches. So, kids who wake up the next morning feeling a little sore probably were not very good that year.

There is no cleaning in Norway on Christmas Eve. All brooms are safely hidden away so they won’t be stolen by witches and evil spirits. What about vacuum cleaners and carpet shampooers?

Proving that advertising can be incredibly powerful, in Japan, thanks to a campaign in 1974, many families eat KFC on Christmas Eve. Good thing the campaign wasn’t for Spam.

Germans hide a pickle in the Christmas tree on Christmas eve. The first child to discover it in the morning receives a small gift. I don’t know if the kid also gets to keep the pickle. I would share it, though. There is just so much Christmas pickle a kid can eat.

In the Czech Republic, unmarried women stand by a door and throw a shoe over their shoulder. If the toe is pointing toward the door when it lands, they will be married within the next year. The same shoe can also be used later to throw at the guy when he comes home drunk with lipstick on his shirt collar.

Iceland could use our Black Friday tradition. Over there, those who do not receive new clothes before Christmas Eve risk being devoured by the Yule Cat. Everyone there would be climbing over each others’ backs shopping for new clothes on Black Friday to keep from being devoured.

In Slovakia, the most senior man of the house takes a spoonful of loksa pudding and throws it at the ceiling. The more of it sticks, the better.

I guess the pudding is scraped off, and the ceiling cleaned afterwards. Or, maybe the family gets a ladder and enjoys the pudding.

Enjoy whatever tradition you wish, and have a good holiday season. Just don’t get too crazy.
Now let me see. What’s the best way to shoot this pudding up to the ceiling?