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Krampusnacht: The flipside of St Nicholas

I introduced my daughter to Gremlins this weekend. She's seven. I'm not sure my wife thought that was a great idea, and I kind of forgot about the whole killing of the science teacher scene, but she loved every minute of it.

"We can turn it off if it gets too scary," I told her, while peaking out from behind my hands at the gremlin in the blender.

"Mama, I know it's not real, so how could I be scared?"

Fair point.

Obviously, she is made of stronger stuff than I am. And maybe next year we'll have to get in on the Krampusnacht action.

What is thought to have begun as a pre-Christian tradition in the Alpine region of Europe, the figure of Krampus as a counterpoint to St Nicholas Day by the seventeeth centruy, but was incorporated into medieval Christian celebrations by at least the sixteenth century, which is our earliest written evidence of Krampusnacht festivals. While St Nicholas is the patron saint of children, bringing gifts on December 6th, Krampus in all his devilish attire arrives the night of December 5th with coal and a bundle of birch branches called Rute that he uses to swat at children. A little more in your face than the coal in the stockings ruse, Santa!

Looking to get in on the Krampus tradition? Krampusnacht celebrations are still popular in many Alpine and Bavarian towns, such as in the Christmas markets of Salzburg, Austria. A little closer to home, Milwaukee, Wisconsin has North America's largest Krampus celebration complete with a parade, vendors, and bar crawl. As one does in Milwaukee.

I know where I'm taking the kid next year!

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