By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
Krampus is a new movie coming out in December that’s rated PG-13; the story is based on the Germanic legend of Krampus. It could be scary for the little ones. Read below and you’ll see why. And if you’re wondering what is a Krampus? It’s not a what; it’s a who.
Krampus, a kind of bogeyman, is most often found in Germanic and Austrian legends and is a terrifying companion of St. Nicholas, usually seen as a black or dark figure with horns, (and often a very long tongue) shadowing the good Santa Claus. He walks behind Saint Nicholas on St. Nicholas Day Eve (December 6) and leaves ashes or sticks for the naughty children, while St. Nicholas leaves sweets or fruit for the good little girls and boys. Krampus is the one who punishes the bad children, those who misbehave or are mean to others. He carries a large sack with him, and legend has it that he carried bad girls and boys (those on the naughty list) away to store in a tall tree for eating later. You wouldn’t want to be on this naughty list! In some towns, not too long ago, he followed Saint Nicholas from town to town and quizzed children on their deeds, whether they were good of bad that year, whether they did well in school and their chores.
Some think that the word Krampus comes from the Germanic word for talon, similar to crampon, the device climbers use when climbing icy mountains. Some folklorists say that Krampus is the god of the witches, brought low to serve Saint Nicholas. Others say he is a pagan god, greatly diminished. Perhaps this is why Krampus celebrations were banned by the Catholic Church for centuries. He is similar to the horned god the witches in colonial New England were accused often of consorting with!
He is mostly known in Europe, Austria and Germany, and is popular in Christmas parades in those countries. In Holland, he’s known as Black Peter, or Zwarte Piet. In Germany, he’s known as Knecht Ruprecht and in some parts of Germany, Hans Trapp. When the Pennsylvania Dutch came to America, they brought the name Fur Nicholas (Pelz Nicholas) with them. This name became Belsnickel down through the years. Also, in Philadelphia, there is still a Mummer’s parade on New Year’s Day, often with people in Krampus costumes. In Austria, sweets made out of dates and nuts are made to look like Krampus are sold in markets. At one time, people could send Christmas cards with Krampus on them. Who’s to say they won’t make a reappearance? In Ypsilanti, they put on a Krampus Ball. People can come in costume and dance. One of the organizers has called it “Halloween for Adults,” even though it’s a Christmas party.
Many families brought the legend of Krampus with them when they came to the United States. Perhaps Brom was from one of those families? The legend of Krampus became more widely known in the United States from the book Krampus the Yule Lord by the author and artist Brom. The cover of his book is quite arresting. If something looking like that was asking me if I was a good child, I’d say yes no matter what. In Brom’s story, Krampus has been imprisoned by Saint Nicholas, and is working on getting free to take his revenge. He has a few servants, called belsnickels, who carry out his orders. Whether or not he succeeds, you’ll have to find out yourself.
He was known to carry with him a whip, a stick, a bell or a sack.
By Stacy Parish, Children’s Assistant Librarian
‘Tis the season—for reading! Here is a non-comprehensive, totally subjective, but thoroughly festive list of Christmas books for children. In no particular order:
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg: This “new classic” and Caldecott Medal winner has amazing illustrations and a sweet, inspiring story about a boy’s Christmas Eve journey with Santa Claus and other children to the North Pole. (The page with the wolves is my favorite.)
How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss: “Maybe Christmas perhaps . . . means a little bit more.” Join The Grinch on his night of marauding and morning of soul searching when he learns that Christmas came to Whoville even without the boxes and bags.
Olive, The Other Reindeer by J.otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh: Colorful, whimsical artwork combines with a hilarious storyline about Olive the Dog for a fun holiday book that is sure to make anyone’s Christmas a little merrier.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: In October of 1843, Charles Dickens was giving new meaning to the term “starving artist.” Deep in debt and under huge obligations to his publisher, Dickens began crafting what would become the quintessential Christmas story, and creating one of the most memorable and enduring characters in English literature in Ebenezer Scrooge.
Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera: Is Sophie’s eccentric great-aunt Auntie Claus just another weird New Yorker, or is there something else going on there? Snuggle up and accompany Sophie on her yuletide adventure. (There are also some fun sequels!)
Christmas In The Barn by Margaret Wise Brown: There are two editions of this lovely interpretation of The Nativity; the original was published in 1952 and alternated pages in color and black-and-white, similar to Brown’s classic Goodnight Moon. The 2007 edition keeps the simple, beautiful original text but features all new illustrations in full color.
The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett: Teeka, a young Arctic girl living “in the shadow of Santa’s Winterfarm,” has been tasked with getting Santa’s reindeer ready to fly on Christmas Eve. The creatures are not responsive to Teeka’s tactics of yelling and bossing. She realizes that to prevent the annual sleigh ride across the skies from being a disaster, she is going to have to come up with some new motivational methods for Bramble, Heather, Windswept, Lichen, Snowball, Crag, Twilight, and Tundra.
The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg: A mysterious stranger rides into a small prairie town one cold November night. (No, it isn’t Clint Eastwood.) The stranger’s identity is revealed to a young girl named Lucy, and he tells her of the legend of the candy cane and provides the answer to the town’s dreams. Will Lucy in turn share her newfound knowledge?
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson: The horrible Herdman horde is a lying, cheating, stealing, fighting, smoking, cussing bunch of social outlaws. When they decide to commandeer the annual Nativity program at the local church, the congregation is caught completely flat-footed. However, the result is one of the most unorthodox—and hilarious—Christmas pageants ever.
Welcome Comfort by Patricia Polacco: Life is no sleigh ride for foster child Welcome Comfort at any time, but especially around Christmas, with no family or friends, no presents, and no Santa Claus. But when Welcome makes a new friend in the school custodian Mr. Hamp, his fortune just may be changing.
Happy holidays, and happy reading!