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A Christmas without Krampus

December 2, 2010

By STEVE REAGAN

Browsing through the news wire is almost always entertaining. You'll find news to depress you, news to uplift you, news that will shock you and news that will make you want to bang your head on your desk just from the sheer stupidity of it all.

Then, there's news that surprises you, but really shouldn't.

For instance, did you know that the hallowed holiday tradition of Christmas caroling was started by a bunch of drunks?

AOL News (www.aolnews.com/weird-news) recently posted an interview with David McKillop, vice president of programming for The History Channel, who was promoting the network's “The Real Story of Christmas” program which aired a few days ago.

McKillop said in the interview that Christmas caroling was started by a bunch of drunken pagans:

According to McKillop, groups of poor medieval carolers would go around to houses singing and begging for food and drinks, threatening to throw rocks through the windows of anyone who refused to give them a handout.

"They would get very, very rowdy. Eventually, the drunken revelry got too out of hand, and Christmas was banned for years in America in the 16th and 17th centuries," explained McKillop.

You see, it is articles such as this that makes me glad to have chosen journalism as a profession — I actually get paid to surf the Internet and find stuff like this to write about. You can't say that about most jobs.

I'm digressing, aren't I?

Back to the subject at hand, the revelation that Christmas caroling was started by a bunch of drunken hooligans really shouldn't be all that surprising.

Only a drunk could have come up with the idea in the first place — “Hey, let's walk around on a cold, dark night, knock on the doors of total strangers and start singing for them. It'll be a blast!”

Only a drunk would be shocked when these strangers, rousted from their nice, cozy homes, would decline to reward the singers with food and drink.

And only a drunk would respond to such refusal by threatening acts of vandalism.

Reading the interview, my reaction was, “Of course! It makes perfect sense!”

Before anyone starts calling me a modern-day Scrooge who has no appreciation for hallowed holiday traditions, allow me to applaud — from the warmth of my home — those who engage in Christmas caroling.

Reading the interview further, I discovered that several other Christmas traditions have, uh, changed a bit over the years.

For example, Santa Claus used to be one bad dude:

McKillop said the St. Nick of old European legend was said to be accompanied not by elves but by an impish little devil creature named "Krampus" who beat up and kidnapped naughty children.

"If kids were bad, Krampus would leave them bad gifts. I think that's where the idea of giving people coal for Christmas first sprouted. That Krampus was mean," said McKillop.

I'm of two minds after reading that tidbit: On one hand, I'm exceedingly glad that we no longer blackmail children into being good by threatening them with kidnapping and beatings at the hand of a demon. On the other hand, you have to admit we missed out on some killer Christmas songs, such as:

You better not pout,
You better not cry,
You better watch out,
I'm telling you why:
Krampus will beat the crap out of you!

Catchy, ain't it?

In all seriousness, I'm not the least bit sorry that these pagan traditions haven't survived to the modern times. Having a gang of drunken singers throw rocks through my window or living in fear of a demon kidnapping me would definitely take the magic out of the holiday season.

Give me jolly Santas and red-nosed reindeers and sleigh rides, and leave the scary stuff for Halloween.

Contact Staff Writer Steve Reagan at 263-7331, ext. 234 or by e-mail at reporter@bigspringherald.com

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