Friday, December 6, 2013

Santa and the Devil

It's December 6th, which means, at least in our corner of the world, that it's Santa Day!

Yep that's right, Santa arrives to Hungary before it's cool.
Or cold, anyway.

December 6th is St. Nicholas' Day, who is, as everyone probably knows, the original Santa Claus. Many chocolate Santas are still dressed as tiny bishops, complete with the staff and the Bible (see in the picture). On the eve of Santa Day, children clean their shoes (the lazier ones just one, the overachievers every shoe in the house) and line them up on the windowsill to be filled with goodies by the morning.
In the morning, two things can happen: A) Shoes are filled with chocolate and candy, or, in lamely health conscious households, walnuts and oranges, or B) You have been naughty and you get switches to be beaten with. Switches nowadays are sprinkled with glitter and gold, but that does not change the fact that little Hermione Granger me used to throw them out the window in tears when they showed up in the shoes, even though they were accompanied by candy. Celebrate Santa Day with symbolic reminders of child abuse to your own discretion.

Santa does not only leave gifts, he also visits places such as schools, libraries, and workplace daycare. He hands out gifts in exchange for drawings, songs, or little poems, depending on the bravery and age range of the children. And here comes the fun part: He is always accompanied by the Devil.

Well, not really the Devil, although many people would make the mistake if they didn't know what they were looking at. It is the Krampusz, Santa's trickster helper, all coal and little horns and tail. Usually female, to balance out Santa's masculinity. Sometimes more than one, although I don't know what the English plural would be for Krampusz (Krampi? Krampuszes?...) They are partly there to scare the children, and partly there to help hand out the presents, or occasionally play the guitar while the kids sing songs. Honestly, being a Krampusz is a lot more fun than being Santa.

Happy Santa Day, everyone!