Sunday, December 7, 2014

Saint Nicholas

I am a firm believer in Saint Nicholas and all the good things that he did during his life, all the miracles he did after he died.  A tradition in our house growing up was to put a shoe each out on the front porch on December 5th before we went to bed, and on December 6th, we would wake up and find that St Nick had visited our home that night.  

We continued this tradition even when my nieces were younger.  But one year, when the twins were being especially difficult, my mother found an article in the Houston Chronicle about the "monsters" that visited the children that Santa Claus did not.  We showed them the pictures and shared the stories and I must say, their behavior changed dramatically.  

This was the first time that I had heard about Krampus or any of the others (there's actually an old lady who sends out her sons and they bring back the bad children for her to eat) and since then, they have always been something I found really interesting.

I am currently engrossed in this really interesting book about the story of Santa Claus and I came upon this ...

"Saint Nicholas could not travel to places where people didn't believe in him, and so he stopped visiting. ... 
            Although Saint Nicholas continued to visit those places and those people who still believed in him, the chaos and fear caused by the religious fighting allowed other stranger creatures to try to work against him.  Many of these were very old demonmonsters that had stalked the world in ancient times.  They had gone into hiding after the coming of Jesus, but now they saw a new opportunity to work mischief.  Although Saint Nicholas did his best to protect children from these monsters, he didn't have the strength to completely stop them, especially when they went after children who had been naughty.
            The most famous of these monsters was a demon called Krampus.  Born in the Austrian Alps, Krampus was a large, hairy creature with cloven hooves, long goat horns, and a forked tongue.  Every year, Krampus came down from the mountains on the eve of Saint Nicholas's Day to hunt the naughty children that he knew Saint Nicholas couldn't protect.  He would stalk through the towns and villages, rattling his heavy iron chains.  Over his shoulder, he carries an old sack.  When Krampus found a child who had been exceptionally naughty, he would grab the child and stuff him or her in his sack.  Some say that he took them home to eat them, others say he carried them off to hell.  Either way, these children were never seen again.
            For children who had only been a little bit bad, Saint Nicholas could still offer them some protection and would stop Krampus from carrying them off in his sack.  However, for these children, Krampus carried a long thin branch, called a switch.  When he caught children who had been a little naughty he would strike them with his switch and send them crying home to their parents.
            Krampus was the most famous of these monsters, but he was not the only one.  In parts of Germany a creature called Pelznickel also hunted misbehaving children.  A bent and creepy old man, Pelznickel dressed in ragged furs and sometimes wore a mask.  He also carried a long, painful switch that he used to punish naughty children on the night before Saint Nicholas's Day.
            Another monster who took advantage of the situation was Knecht Ruprecht, a little man who wore furs and carried a long staff and a bag of ashes.  He would rush around ahead of Saint Nicholas and see which children could pray.  If the children could pray, he left them for Saint Nicholas; if they could not, he would beat them with his sack of ashes.
            These are just a few of the strange monsters that Saint Nicholas had to battle against; there were many more.  Some he has managed to drive off for good, but others, like Krampus, are still occasionally seen today."

For those of y'all who have some misbehaving children, I suggest you share this story (last year, around this time, I also discussed these monsters on here) and definitely check out pictures of all of the above in whatever search engine you choose to use - creepy! :)

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