I hope that everyone has the holiday celebration they hoped for and that everyone stays safe and healthy.
In keeping with the holiday season, I decided to delve into the world of the Christmas Elf.
I was positively delighted to discover that several internet sources attribute the concept of the Christmas elf to Louisa May Alcott (the muse of my youth) in an unpublished 1850 Christmas book entitled Christmas Elves. Though Santa was called a jolly old elf in that famous Christmas poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," by Clement Clarke Moore in 1823. It makes sense that if Santa is an elf, then he would enlist help from his kinfolk to accomplish his monumental holiday tasks. But as with everything in life, for every bright side, there is a dark one and this also holds true for elves at Christmas.
Did you know that the Eastern Europeans' St. Nicholas was accompanied by a far less adorable elf? A dark companion whose names varied from culture to culture. Austrians called him Krampus, Germans called him Knecht Ruprecht, in the Netherlands, he was called Zwarte Piet (Black Pete)--the list goes on. I'll use Krampus since I just recently spied a very intriguing book by Brom--Krampus, the Yule Lord.
|Not a face for those sugar-plum dreams, eh?|
Krampus is typically represented as a dark hairy creature with horns and cloven feet like a goat. He has a long tongue which he likes to stick out and carries chains he likes to shake at children or a basket of switches for obvious reasons.
It cannot escape the discerning reader that perhaps our ancestors thought that if St. Nicholas couldn't entice a child to goodness, then Krampus could scare them into obedience. The juxtaposition between the "godly" St. Nicholas and the "devil" Krampus is not coincidental nor is the devilish appearance of St. Nicholas's dark companion.
It's interesting that when St. Nicholas crossed the ocean to become Santa here in the west, Krampus did not make the trip. Though, it seems he has been lurking in the background.
So, you'd better watch out and you'd better be nice, because if you're naughty, getting lumps of coal might be the least of your worries. Krampus might be the one to visit, turning your "ho ho ho" into "oh no no."