Wednesday, December 14, 2011

EXTREME METAL HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS, Krampus and the duality of holiday celebrations

The sentiment from the above picture could not be more true for most extreme metal fans. In a few weeks you'll be ripping apart wrapped packages hoping for CDs, DVDs, LPs or even a T-shirt or two. If you open up a wrapped gift only to find out it's that LITURGY CD consider it a lump of coal. Strangely enough you won't feel any guilt over being a naughty boy or girl all year hailing Satan while enjoying your gifts from Santa. Let us also not forget that every time you say "merry christmas" you might as well be saying happy birthday jesus. Kinda sucks doesn't it being a hypocrite. Well there are ways and traditions around all of that hypocrisy. If you're a regular reader of Scumfeast Metal 666 (and frankly who isn't) then consider yourself extremely naughty. Which brings us to the duality of the holiday celebration and how it all means to you the extreme. When it comes to the holiday season I personally have nothing against those who celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah. In fact I actually despise those types of people who wanna ban all holiday celebrations in order to make everyone equally miserable. You see the fact of the matter is it's not all about what you see as the typical 20th century celebrations we relate with winter holiday celebrating. Remember that in the past there were cultures who didn't celebrate a religious holiday either. To many pagan cultures the end of the year was a time to celebrate because the harvest was in and there was plenty of food and drink. It was these pagan and harvest rituals, some of which contained a fair dose of mischief and mayhem, that coincided with the time of year and later became associated with many Christmas legends.

The 'duality" of it comes in when the theologions entered the picture and created a separate mini day of judgement for the end of the year. In a way it was the perfect idea to reinforce the social order. If you're good all year then revelry is your reward. Although if you are bad, especially designated towards children, then there's a view of doom waiting. It was this hint of the supernatural which we here are delving into because here at Scumfeast Metal 666 we always root for the other guy. So in other words people of the past were taught that not only did Santa, or Saint Nick, have a brand new bag but he also had a helper who was a prick. In France, a good child couldn't wait to see what gifts Pere Noel (Father Christmas) brought them where as the naughty children feared his switch-wielding sidekick Pere Fouettard, aka: Father Spanking. For some Scandinavian ne'er-do-wells the corresponding consequences for bad behavior might be finding potatoes in their shoes. Others could consider themselves lucky to just find a lump of coal in their stockings. In other parts of the world you should be so lucky. In the Netherlands, naughty children ran the risk of being stuffed into a gunnysack and carted off to Spain. In Greece they have these malevolent creatures known as Kalikantzari who mark the season by slipping down the chimney and urinating on the fire, or by mounting the backs of innocent citizens and forcing them to dance to exhaustion. If you think that's bad then be thankful you didn't grow up in Iceland. According to their lore, Icelandic tradition has 13 Santa-like figures, known as the Jolasveinar. They are the offspring of Gryla and Leppalud who are a pair of 13th-century ogres. The Jolasveinar are elfin characters who delve out two weeks of mischief prior to the prescribed gift giving day. Each of the Jolasveinar is unique as well for example there's Hurdaskellir, aka: the Door Slammer, who likes to keep people up at night like a poltigiest. There's also Pottasleikir, the Pot Licker, who licks pots which tends to teach people to wash their kitchen cookery before using. Some other names of Jolasveinar can be loosely translated into the Window Peeper, the Sausage Snatcher and the Doorway Sniffer.

This brings us now to Krampus which recently has become somewhat of a cult happening here in the states of late. In recent years Krampus themed parties and traditional Krampuslauf processions have begun to appear in American cities like Portland, Oregon, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Ypsilanti, Michigan. The history or tradition of Krampus goes back to the pre-christian times of the tribes who lived in the Alpine regions of now Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia. Of course who or what are Krampus varies. For some people the tradition goes back when the children of poor families roamed the streets and rode their sledes during the holiday festivals. These Krampus were later represented by actors who wore black rags and masks, dragging chains behind them, and occasionally hurling them towards children in their way. They then started these parades called Krampusumzüge (Krampus runs).These Krampusumzüge still exist, although perhaps less violent than in the past. Other traditions, mainly Austrian, have the Krampus as a a ghoulish, goat-like figure that springs into action on Dec. 5. It is the task of the Krampus to tear about the countryside, threatening passersby with chains and sticks all as a reminder to behave. Other legends describe the Krampus as helpers of St. Nicholas (aka: Santa Claus) who accompany him during the Christmas season, warning and punishing bad children, in contrast to St. Nicholas, who gives gifts to good children. When the Krampus finds a particularly naughty child, it stuffs the child in its sack and carries the frightened thing away to its lair, presumably to devour for its Christmas dinner.

The legend is re-enacted in many areas in the alpine regions by men and sometimes women in frightening Krampus garb who parade around in a Krampuslauf Graz. In the past it was men from all over Austria wearing goat-hair costumes and carved masks, carrying bundles of sticks used as switches and swinging cowbells to warn of their approach. They were typically intoxicated males in their teens and early twenties. They would roam the streets of their typically quiet towns and hit people with their switches. Young women tended to be popular targets. Later on the Krampus became represented as a beast like creature, generally demonic in appearance. The tradition changed into young men dressing up as the Krampus during the first week of December, particularly on the evening of the 5th. and roam the streets frightening children with rusty chains and bells In many parts of Croatia, Krampus is described as a devil wearing a cloth sack around his waist and chains around his neck, ankles, and wrists. As a part of a tradition, when a child receives a gift from St. Nicolas he is given a golden branch to represent his good deeds throughout the year; however, if the child has misbehaved, Krampus will take the gifts for himself and leave only a silver branch to represent the child's bad acts. Children are commonly scared into sleeping during the time St. Nicolas brings gifts by being told that if they are awake, Krampus will think they have been bad and will take them away in his sack. In Hungary, the Krampusz is often portrayed as mischievous rather than evil devil. He wears a black suit and has a long red tongue, a tail, and little red horns that are funny rather than frightening. The Krampusz wields a Virgács, which is a bunch of golden coloured twigs bound together. Hungarian parents often frighten children with getting a Virgács instead of presents, if they do not behave. By the end of November, you can buy all kinds of Virgács on the streets, usually painted gold, bound by a red ribbon. Getting a Virgács is rather more fun than frightening, and is usually given to all children, along with presents to make them behave.

Today we have something along the lines of these celebrations in Austria.

Personally I think these types of parades should stay in Europe and if you want see one then get off your fuckin ass and go over there. We've already seen the results of one European Holiday being Americanized, that one being Xmas of course.

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