By Melisseus


I didn't quite manage to catch him with his tongue out. A long, pointed tongue is a key element in the Krampus mythology, apparently, as is having this demonic demi-goat figure carry a bundle of birch twigs as a whip for miscreant children and, intriguingly, pieces of coal, which the bad children get in place of the orange and nut that St Nicholas gives to good children

It's intriguing how some of this has leached into our own Xmas customs. My 'stocking' presents always included an orange and a nut - as did our children's - but I also remember my grandfather saying it should also include a lump of coal, which I was always puzzled by (as we had an entire outhouse full!) 

'Krampusnacht' has actually passed - is was Dec 5, the eve of St Nicholas's day. The folklore comes from the Alps, particularly Austria, where 'Krampus' (men in masks and costume) makes his way through the neighbourhood, possibly accompanied by his kind alter-ego St Nicholas, seeking out the bad children in their beds and beating them. It is accompanied by a fair bit of schnapps, and can deteriorate into bawdy behaviour, crossing the boundary of acceptability, especially mixed with children. The church tried to ban it at one point in history, but that's not easy to enforce in a land of isolated, snow-locked, mountain villages

The town of Whitby - already embracing vampire mythology - has held a 'Krampus run' since 2013 which is growing in profile. Expect the merchandising team to be along any minute - I'm not joking; I read that it's already happened in US

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