Have yourself a very Krampus Christmas!

22 12 2013

Last night we celebrated several lesser-known seasonal delights, and had the joy of sharing these with someone new. They were: Winter Solstice, and Krampus.

We have another international guest, Joel, from the Netherlands, who is staying with us forst nickolas boot 3 months. He arrived here just days before his own version of Christmas. In that part of the world, they celebrate St. Nicholas night in early December, instead of on December 25th. On this night, everyone places their boot outside the back door in hopes that they will be filled with candy and goodies as a reward for being good. We didn’t want him to feel homesick, so Bethany immediately started planning something to welcome our new friend. She couldn’t find Joel’s boot (since he was wearing them), so she filled a sock with little toys and candy from The Rocket and hung it on the back porch for him to find. It’s just our way of showing how much we love embracing all the different celebrations that we have.

Last year at this time, our home was filled with people sharing their holiday traditions. Our high school exchange son, Bank (from Thailand), was experiencing his first ever snowfalls, while we explained the traditions of Christmas. We also had two young men from Germany staying with us for 3 months, Sven and Torben, who shared their own European traditions. Lastly, we had Craig, the retiree who lived with us for a year and a half, who shared his life stories with us, when he wasn’t be a curmudgeonly recluse.

loy_krathong_yi_peng_san_saiThere we were, one big, makeshift family, covering the globe with our religious, cultural, and generational experiences. We gathered around the fireplace and shared with each of them the tiny tokens of our friendship that they pulled out of the six stockings hung by the mantle. Bank talked about how they have started to celebrate Christmas in Thailand, even though most people are Buddhist. It’s a secular celebration of lights, and lanterns, and gift giving. Sven and Torben talked about how their concept of Santa Claus differs slightly from the American version. Craig talked about when he was a little boy, and the memories he has of his family back then, and the joys of celebrating now with his grandkids.

solsticeSo back to this year. Our dear friends invited us to their Solstice party. It was a dreary, freezing rain kind of December night, but we invited Joel to join us anyway as we walked through the rain, about 20 minutes across town. Bethany splashed her winter boots in puddles along the way like a gleeful child, while Joel avoided drenching his sneakers, and shared my umbrella with me. When we got to the house, it was brimming with celebration. Packed with people, since it was too wet for an outdoor fire, it felt like we were salmon swimming upstream. And that’s not a bad analogy for a night where we celebrate the shortest day of the year, and the swing back towards more daylight and the springtime to come.

We had a wonderful time visiting with old friends, and meeting new ones alike. As the evening waned on, Diana dimmed the lights and directed everybody on how to write down a thought or a wish that they would like to say goodbye to from the past year, or welcome into their lives in the new year. Then, one by one, we each reached out our hands with our tiny folded piece of flash paper, held it over the candle, and watched it disappear in a quick eruption of flames. Farewell, 2013! It felt more like Bank’s Thai tradition of Loi Krathong than New Year’s Eve, though all three of these share that reflective, introspective characteristic.

krampus-black-beat1After we left the Solstice party, Bethany and I explained that we were going to take Joel to another, far more obscure, celebration. It was the Krampus Ball. I found it ironic that we would be educating someone from Europe about a tradition that originated there. Leave it to American hipsters to resurrect the oddities of another culture and start practicing them here with full fervor, as if they’ve always been celebrated.krampus

We walked into the Corner Brewery to find it filled with music and people in costumes. They weren’t quite as authentic this year as they have been in years past, but still, it was eclectic. I explained that Krampus was the horned, hairy creature who was kind of like the devil version of Santa. He would come around and whip children who had been bad, instead of giving them candy. If they were really bad, he would stuff them in his sack and take them away! Krampus was a mythical creature that was used to scare kids into being good, and men from the village would dress up like him to make it more real. The creepy character was abandoned in the early 1900s, particularly after the war, when the Austrian government said, no more! They must have thought people had enough nightmare material already, and shoved this centuries-old tradition under the Alpine rug. The much more jolly red suit grew in popularity, but Krampus could not be contained, and was recently resurrected here and in Europe, prompting events such as this Krampus Ball.

There are hundreds of weird ways to celebrate this time of the year, and I always like to share that there’s more than just Christmas to December. Whatever you celebrate, I hope you rejoice in love, kindness, and acceptance of others. Don’t be a Krampus or a Grinch.krampus2 krampus couple



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