Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Is it Krampus or Ruprecht or Black Peter?

Good morning morts!  It is a lovely day and I cannot wait expound on my current favorite subject the Krampus.  And it doesn't hurt that tomorrow is Krampusnacht!

Now, Krampus is not the only sinister holiday figure celebrated.  There are many similar figures that evloved from those same pre-christian customs.

Another group of figures from pre-christian Austrian and Bavarian folklore is the Perchten.  The custom surrounding them has the same look and feel as Krampus in the sense of costume but these wild spirits are concerned with driving out the evil spirits of winter not the morality of children.  The Perchten are primarily associated with mid-winter and the embodiment of fate and the souls of the dead.  Traditionally, the Perchten runs are held around Jan 6th.  Over the years though, the Perchten and Krampus have combined and are increasing being celebrated in one event.  

Perchten Awakening on Otscher

Knecht Ruprecht 
He is St. Nicholas' most familiar attendant in Germany.   His name means servant.  Ruprecht was a dark and sinister figure clad in a tattered robe with a big sack on his back in which, legend has it, he will place all naughty children.  "Just wait until Ruprecht comes" is still a common threat in German homes.

Knecht Ruprecht

Zwarte Piet 
Also known as  Black Peter, 
 was established in the Netherlands as the Sinterklaas helper in the 1845 book Sinterklaas en Zijn Knecht. He rides over the rooftops with Sinterklaas, listens down chimneys to check children's behavior, and delivers gifts.   The Piets are popular and the Dutch see them as more fun-loving and mischievous than the more stately bishop.  Piets are also found in Belgium.

Sinterklaas with Piets

Père Fouettard 
The French combine Saint Nicholas and their own legend of P’ere Fouttard.  He is found in France and Luxembourg, where he's known as Housécker. He is the evil butcher who was forever condemned to follow St. Nicolas as a punishment for luring the little lost children into his shop. He is tasked with punishing naughty children by whipping them.

Le Pere Fouettard

This incarnation is nearly all brown: dressed in brown, with brown hair and beard, and a face darkened with lard and soot. He is St. Nicholas' helper in Switzerland. He carries a switch and sack, but no longer uses them. Children were told that Schmutzli would beat naughty children with the switch and carry them off in the sack to gobble them up in the woods. 

Schmutzli and St. Nicholas

My personal favorite is still the Krampus.

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