In Europe, the traditional Christmas holidays are a bit different than here in North America. Have you ever heard of Zwarte Piet 'Black Pete' and Krampus? I've collected a few creepy tidbits.
"Well, this happened a while ago. It started on Christmas Eve, I was walking with a cousin on the cold streets to our house, and on the way, I looked up and saw the Zwarte Piet on the roofs of the huge houses. My cousin also raised his head and saw the same thing, but there was something wrong with this Piet, he didn't look 'normal' as we normally see. His skin was black but it was darker than the darkness of night itself. His eyes were bright blood red, and he had a long demon tail. Of course, he had normal things that the Zwarte Piet would wear as the same garment, for example, the weird chains. Zwarte Piet looked at us and got scared, quickly jumping to the other roof, and just disappearing. My cousin and I were shocked and not believing what we saw.
What is Zwarte Piet?: Sinterklaas, the figure who inspired the famous Santa Claus, is very famous in Europe, with his festival being celebrated since the Middle Ages. But in Holland, the good old man has a helper who has been causing controversy for a while. Zwarte Piet, literally 'Black Pete,' is portrayed as a black man with full, red lips whose job it is to help wrap presents for children who have been good and punish those who have behaved badly. During Dutch celebrations, many citizens dress like Piet, painting their faces black and putting on curly wigs, a racist practice that has generated much criticism, especially for a country struggling with its colonialist and slavery past.
I don't know what exactly that was we saw, my friends have theories about it.
First theory: Zwarte Piet is a real mystical being and not just a simple Christmas children's tale.
Second theory: this is not a real piet but some spirit that has taken on a Zwarte Piet form." QE
The name “Krampus” is derived from the old German expression for claw,' referring to the menacing appearance of the creature. Depending on the area where the celebrations are taking place, the creature's name and appearance can vary slightly. Unlike our tradition of Santa delivering presents in the wee hours of the morning of December 25th, the European Saint Nicolas visits children on December 6th, which commemorates the original real-life saint’s day. According to the customs, Krampus tags along with Saint Nicolas or precedes him on December 5th to deliver punishments to bad children on this day. The practice dates back several thousands of years ago when supposed witches or troublemakers would don sinister costumes and run around the streets to scare the townspeople. Later, the pagan religions observed the approach of the harsh winter season in a similar manner with actors dressed in creepy costumes. Drawing from this influence, Krampus costumes today can range from a scary-looking old man mask to a horrific devil-like creature covered in dark fur, bearing a long-fanged grimacing mask and animalistic eyes. They wield an assortment of fear-inducing noise-makers, such as heavy chains, whips, and loud, clanging bells, as well as a basket meant to carry away naughty children.
Take a look at a few vintage images. It may give you a better perspective:
Krampus Through Time
2000 BCE - Enkidu appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the earliest known appearance of a 'Wild Man' in literature.
600 BCE - In the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, King Nebuchadnezzar is punished by God for his pride when he is turned into a hairy beast.
217 BCE - Saturnalia is introduced as a winter celebration in Rome, marked by gift giving, wild parties, and a reversal of the normal social roles of slave and master.
4th Century CE - Due to Roman influence, many Germanic tribes, such as the Goths and Vandals, convert to Christianity; their pagan traditions survive in small villages in the Alps where the Church cannot penetrate.
1250 CE - King's Mirror, a Norwegian text, features a Wild Man character who is described as being covered in hair.
17th Century CE - 'Knecht Rupert' appears as a figure in a Nuremberg Christmas procession.
1810 CE - The Brothers Grimm began publishing stories of Germanic folktales, marking a resurgence in Germanic pagan folklore.
Early 19th Century CE - Holiday postcards from Austria, Germany, and other parts of Europe feature holiday greetings from Krampus and other companions of St. Nicholas.
Early 19th Century CE - Germanic and Dutch immigrants to the US popularize 'Pelznickel' traditions in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and as far west as Indiana.
2004 CE - Blab! Magazine curator Monte Beauchamp publishes Devil In Design, a collection of vintage Krampus postcards from the turn of the 19th century. This book marks an increase in Krampus' popularity in the English-speaking world.
2004 CE - An Adult Swim show The Venture Brothers features Krampus during a Christmas special.
2007 CE - The American television show Supernatural features an evil Krampus character.
2009 CE - American satirist Stephen Colbert is visited by Krampus on his television show The Colbert Report.
2013 CE - 'Grimm: Twelve Days of Krampus' - aired 12/6/2013 - A DARK JUSTICE DESCENDS ON PORTLAND AS THE CHRISTMAS SEASON BEGINS -- After a string of delinquent teens go missing, an old Wesen tale of an evil Santa who brings more than just a lump of coal may be the prime suspect. The investigation intensifies as Nick (David Giuntoli) and Hank (Russell Hornsby) take things a little too far. Meanwhile, Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) enlists Juliet (Bitsie Tulloch) to surprise Rosalee (Bree Turner) for their first Christmas together with unintended results. Elsewhere, Captain Renard’s (Sasha Roiz) tour of Europe brings him closer to tracking down Adalind (Claire Coffee). Reggie Lee also stars.
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