Sunday, December 2, 2012

St. Nicholas, Meet Krampus

Now, to continue my back story of Krampus, I need to talk a little about St. Nicholas.

St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas was a monk. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. He was born into a wealthy family. Once St. Nicholas decided to follow the church, he decided to share all his riches with the people that he deemed needed it most.   When he gave away his wealth, Nicholas is said to have allotted much of it to orphaned children, travelers who had fallen upon hard times and prostitutes. 

 In his most famous exploit a poor man had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for any of them. This meant they would remain unmarried and probably been sold into slavery or become prostitutes. Knowing the father would accept no charity; Nicholas went to his house under the cover of night and threw three purses filled with gold coins through the windows. 

His name, deeds and devotion spread throughout the countryside that he traveled. Devotion to Nicholas’ memory was widespread and his formal veneration had begun within a century after his death. As devotees to St. Nicholas spread, a tradition of celebration, giving of gifts, especially to children (to commemorate his charity), and the making of special "St. Nicholas Cookies" grew up around his feast day. His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6. 

By the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. Although the Reformation and Counter-Reformation led to a waning in the veneration of Saints, the reverence of St. Nicholas survived in Europe as people continued to place nuts, apples, and sweets in shoes left beside beds, on windowsills, or before the hearth. 
Speaking of sweets, I think I need a short break, be right back.

Mmmmmm, there is nothing like a few pastries and a nice, hot cup of tea.  It will make you right as rain.

Tea and Sweets by Dan Brown

Before I continue, we let me say a word about the name Krampus. While I do not know when the word Krampus was first used, I do know it comes from the German word for claw, Krampen. I mention this because I will be using the term Krampus from here on. 

Now back to our story….

While church celebrations of St. Nicholas were spreading throughout settled Europe, many remote villages that were inaccessible to the church's influence continued celebrating the winter solstice as they had for hundreds of years.  This was the origin of what later evolved into the Krampus. 

As the church's influence slowly penetrated all of Europe, these old, heathen celebrations were banned.   Fortunately for the Krampus lovers, the people of the remote villages around Austria, Switzerland, Bavaria and Italy refused to let these customs and rituals die out despite the church's directive.  After many failed attempts by the church to dissolve these winter celebrations, they decided the best course of action would be to absorb the old pagan imagery into the new church winter traditions.

And that is how St. Nicholas met the Krampus. 

1 comment:

  1. Ah yes...if you can't beat'em, join'em. Most enlightening.