Saturday, December 24, 2011

Have Yourself a Merry Little Krampus

It's Christmas Eve in Chicago. Though a bit more gift wrapping must be seen to, the approach to a quiet holiday is otherwise unobstructed.

I know not everyone reading this celebrates Christmas, but it's certainly part of my heritage. In the spirit of the season, I'd like to offer a warm cup of holiday knitting to one and all–regardless of whether or not you usually partake.

There are veritable snowdrifts of patterns for knitting up Santa Claus, snowmen, candy canes, reindeer (plain- and red-nosed), elves, nativity scenes, mice (stirring), bears (teddy), toy soldiers (because nothing says Peace on Earth like a trained killer with a rifle) and most the rest of the cast of sugarplums.

But I was shocked–shocked–when I consulted the Ravelry pattern database and found not a single representation of the character I (and many millions of others) consider essential to a well-balanced festive season: Krampus.

Do you know Krampus? If not, a few words of introduction.

He is, mainly in Alpine countries, the friend and companion of dear Saint Nicholas. His useful function is to deal with the children whose behavior in the year past has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.

This is, I believe, a most logical and reasonable division of labor. In America, we not only expect Santa Claus to reward the good children by scattering presents around; we also require–in the course of the same evening–that he stick lumps of coal into the stockings of the naughty. Have you ever held a lump of coal? I have. It's heavy, it's dusty, and it leaves black smudges all over everything.

Is it fair, I ask you, to make a man wearing white fur cuffs distribute tons of coal and tons of gifts from a miniature sleigh with less horsepower than a riding lawn mower? I think not.

Countries which employ Krampus do things far better.

Saint Nicholas visits only the nice children, hands around the goodies, and calls it a night. Krampus, meanwhile, drops in on the bad children–the ones who didn't finish their vegetables, and stuck out their tongues at Grandma, and boosted the ratings for Glee while Community was put on hiatus. He smacks them soundly with a bundle of birch twigs; licks them with his long, slimy tongue; carries them away screaming in the basket on his back. When he's good and ready, he tears them limb from limb and then eats them.

Note that coal doesn't even enter the picture. Krampus is very eco-friendly and discourages the consumption of fossil fuels.

That such a darling fellow should be absent from the knitting round-up appalls me. To redress the imbalance, I present the Little Knitted Krampus.

He Sees You When You're Sleeping

He is made from several colors of Skacel's excellent Fortissima Socka sock yarn, and the free pattern will appear in a few days.

He Knows When You're Awake

My gift, gentle reader, to you–provided you've been a good child.

He Knows If You've Been Bad or Good

Otherwise, expect the Real Thing to tap on your door and spread you on toast like a chicken liver.

Merry Christmas from me, Dolores, Harry, and whole of the Sock Yarn Colony. We love you very much.

P.S. If you'd like to see more of Krampus, including absolutely adorable Krampuskarten from the 19th and 20th centuries that I used as visual references, visit this site. An animated treatment sure to gladden the hearts of your children (show it to them just before bedtime) is available on Youtube.

P.P.S. Anna Hrachovec of Mochimochiland, I wouldn't have had the chutzpah to tackle my first knitted toy design without your inspiration, encouragement, and the excellent treatment of the technical aspects in your books. Thank you!


Paula said...

Thank you, Franklin! I will be knitting a Krampus (or three) as soon as the pattern is posted.

Yvonne said...

Love the Krampus!

As a child growing up in Yorkshire I used to get a traditional Xmas stocking - the top of it always held newspaper, kindling & a lump of coal - this was so we could relight the fire ( it was always put out on Xmas eve so Santa didn't get burnt!)

Freyalyn said...

I daren't even go and look at the Youtube posting - the stary red eyes and horrible tongue and nasty pointy nose is enough to give me nightmares tonight. Thank you and Christmas 'dreams' to you too Franklin!

pdxknitterati/MicheleLB said...

That's an awesome cup o'Krampus!

Should I ask why you have such a working knowledge of lumps of coal?

Merry Christmas!

Roz said...

Merry Xmas! I will be sure to knit two -- one for my office, and one for my other office -- because that is where Krampus will be sure to see me at my best. :-P

Jeremy said...

Franklin, honey, I don't think I could love you any harder than I do right this very moment. You are ridiculously awesome.

Merry merry, Mary!

meezermeowmy said...

Thanks for the memories - Santa always had an "evil twin" when I was a kid.

kaykatrn said...

Franklin, you might just have come up with a knitted toy design that would motivate me to tackle toys!! Thanks, and Merry Christmas to you and yours.

PS--My Grandma's family from Bavaria had Krampus, but she stopped telling her kids about him as she thought kids behaved better if you loved them into it! No criminals in my family, so something worked!!

Yarn Princess said...

I love it. Will have to get my daughter to knit one!

Penny said...

Love it!!! How cool, I see one of these (knitted of course in my future)! Thank you Franklin.

Andrea said...

This has absolutely made my Christmas! My brother and I have been tossing around jokes of Krampus for the past two weeks. I said this year I wrote a letter to Krampus instead of Santa in hopes he'd teach my husband a lesson. And just today I was wondering about a pattern for a knitted Krampus! So, hooray!

Lynn in Tucson said...

Mein gott, that's absolutely terrifying!

Barbara said...

This is great! I'm eagerly anticipating making a krampus. I don't want to become pate. Merry Christmas!

Amanda Lyn said...

My boyfriend was saying just a few hours ago that he found a Christmas character he can get behind, and here you go writing a pattern for just the guy. I know what he's getting for christmas next year, and we're not talking socks!

MonicaPDX said...

Franklin, I adore you! Not only learned something new, but found something to make next year to go with my Death of Rats egg cozy, which I got in a Secret Santa swap. (DoR is now reposing in my Christmas tree.) Happy Hogwatch!

Rabbitch said...

That's lovely, darlin, but the chains ... um ... you didn't attach nipple rings to poor Krampus' wrists did you?

Kamigaeru said...

Simply awesome. Thank you for sharing this, I'll certainly have to make one in the spirit of the holiday. He'll be ready for next year...

Kate said...

Franklin, as the child of an austrian father the krampus was part of my Christmas's growing up. My daughter and I have been bringing him into our Interfaith December fun.
Thank you so much for this post


Suzan said...

When I was little, Saint Nicholas came, attended by Schwartz Peter, who carried The Book in which St. N. looked up the record of our behavior, as well as the coal. As best as my fuzzy memories allow, I think the big guy was one of the farmers in our neck of the woods, the imp was an African American kid (time were MUCH less PC then!), and the coal might have been rock candy. At least it was edible. And the Big Guy had a sack of small presents - what we'd call stocking stuffers now.

gayle said...

I love you, Franklin. This is the best Christmas decoration EVER.
Merry merry to you and the gang!

Sue said...

Luckily for us Aussies Krampusseems to stick to the cold countries.

Jules said...

You knitted a Krampus! Oh Franklin. Thank you. He is fantastic. (Not that I want to see him live and in person or anything)

Merry Christmas!

Krafty Like A Fox said...

This is most excellent, not just for your knitted Krampus, but also for the Community reference.

MaryjoO said...

Wow -- a real live American who knows what Krampus/Grampus is!! I spent part of my childhood in Austria, and there the Grampus were QUITE scary (on purpose). We still tease my now-50+ year old brother about the time he got coal in his shoe on St. Nicholas day .... can't wait for the pattern: it will become a family heirloom. My other Xmas ornament ones are old/worn/straw broom falling apart, etc. :)))

Andrea S. said...

I love it! Hope you have the happiest of holidays.

Weaving my Life said...

I love it!! I will definitely be knitting such a wonderful creature for my work room. Thank you!

Syd said...

How perfect it Krampus?! Looking forward to the pattern.

Snorted my morning coffee on the toy soldier comment!

Happy Holidays.

Anonymous said...

Oh - my - god! I just laughed myself stupid. Thank you SO much! Wish I'd know about Krampus when my kids were little. And one (or more) of these will definitely be there for my grandchildren.

Anonymous, too said...

Do you take lemon or milk with your Krampus tea??

And how did you manage to make look so much like I do first thing in the morning??

Anonymous, too said...

That is, how did you manage to make IT look so much like I do first thing in the morning??

Linda said...

I take it that you've seen the Finnish film, Rare Exports, in a somewhat similar vein? LOVE the Krampus.

Heidi said...

And for those who crochet:

Heidi said...

I'm a big fan and I realize it was thick-headed of me to leave someone else's work on your blog - please accept my apologies and delete.

Susie Q said...

Why have I not discovered you before?
Just followed a note from and proceeded to read about how you started
knitting. My story isn't as fascinating as yours, though. Love how you met Dolores.

kathy b said...

He's amazing krampus is too wonderful

Franklin said...

Heidi, your link was related to the topic - not too mention adorable. No need for apologies at all. A useful addition to the discourse!

anja said...

Franklin, you're the best! I especially agree about Community going on hiatus--where is the justice?! I can't wait to knit up a Krampus myself!

Katie said...

I love it! Krampus is also my favorite Xmas character, followed by the Grinch, of course. Next year I'll have to make a few to give to family members!

Anonymous said...

Dear Franklin - I DO appreciate the scope of your various talents. How you consistently find the weirdness in the everyday world never ceases to amaze me. Keep it up! The web-site is just terrific, and I DO like YOUR Krampus - it's not quite so creepy as the ones pictured in the old cards. 8-)

Word verification is "pugshe" - a female pug?

Happy Boxing Day from Irene on Vancouver Island

Mimi said...

A belated very merry Christmas to you! Thank you for a wonderful year full of laughter. I hope the New Year brings as much joy to you and as you have brought to everyone!

Seanna Lea said...

That is awesome.

While I wouldn't say I've been good all year, I definitely eat all of my veggies! So, I'll have to make a Krampus for my friends with the non-veggie eating children.

lilmamad said...

We were just telling our kids about Krampus and nobody we knew had any idea what we were talking about! My husband thinks I need to knit Krampus and hide him in various places around our house so our kids know he's always there :) Great post, I found it hilarious!

Leah said...

Thanks, Franklin! I highly recommend the Venture Brothers Christmas Special for a rather, er, vivid portrayal of the Krampus. Note that it's not safe for work, children, or pretty much anyone without a somewhat-juvenile sense of humor.

Monika said...

OMG- that Krampus is absolutely wonderful! I'm from Austria, and Krampus came on Dec. 5th. We got the shit scared out of us as kids. I would love the pattern for this fellow. :o)

Rainy Daisy said...

Yes yes yes! I love Krampus! My Swiss husband introduced me to him. I think it's only logical. And a darn good incentive for eating your vegetables.

Rosi G. said...

He's freakin scary. I may have to knit one this month just so that all year long I can tell my 4 kids, "Don't make me whip out the Krampus!!"

Lynn said...

So, so awesome! Two of my favorite things combined - knitting and Krampus. Thank you!!!

The Bloated Ewe said...

Awesome!!!! I've gotten such a kick out of the Krampus legend myself. If we aren't going to be having him switching American naughty children, I would at least like a local Krampusnacht celebration. Until that happens, though, I'll just spread the merriment by knitting a bunch of these little guys.

la takahashi said...

Love it! We go to a Krampus party every year. Can't wait to try knitting one or two. Thanks oh brilliant and funny one! :O)

Pilgrim said...

As a Scrooge acolyte, I must have one of these creatures. Fits my mood.

Gecika said...

I love this! One of my good friends has been wearing horns all holiday season to celebrate Krampus!

Erzsike said...

Fabulous! My parents are from Hungary and so I grew up with Krampusz (Hungarian spelling) and his bundle of twigs (Virgács in Hungarian). I absolutely love your knitted rendering of him. My children are now 24 and 21 and they too were introduced to this wonderful imp in their early years. In Hungary, Krampusz is not evil but is very mischievous - he does threaten to use his bundle of switches on naughty kids. I look forward to your pattern. I will be knitting a few of them for my Hungarian relatives.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and wishing you a delightful 2012.


Gryffinitter said...

I went to the site you linked and looked at all the postcards. I especially like the one of the little girl giving Krampus a bath. She reminds me of my aunt. And my aunt would have given him a bath, too...

(Auntie is happily still with us, but a bit on the well-aged side to pose for this card...

Kristen said...

That was such a scary site, I was on and off in one second. I only went because I thought you were making all that up.

MelD said...

Better late than never...!
In Switzerland, Krampus is called "Schmutzli" (little dirty one), probably because of the coal and dirty jobs, and he carries a sack. He usually brings a donkey with him, and wears a brown hooded cape, a bit like a monk. Our Santa is St. Niklaus and in the Catholic cantons of eastern Switzerland, he appears more as a bishop, with Schmutzli carrying the book of bad deeds - very impressive and frightening for the kids, who are expected to recite a special poem to him. If they've been good they get a jute sack of mandarine, spicebread, chocolates and peanuts and if they haven't, they get a switch (of twigs - though nowadays, they have chocolates stuck to them...!).
I know Dolores would be angst-stricken to have these two appear to her on Dec. 6th.
(PS do you know the book "Glennkill" by Leonie Swann? Sheepishly cool).

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Anonymous said...

Hey Franklin, ever post that Krampus pattern? Love your blog.

Anonymous said...

I'm adding my voice tot he requests for a pattern-- my daughter loves Krampus. I will pay, pay for the pattern!

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