Image by Tak Toyoshima

December 21, 2015


Popular culture always tells us a lot about the spirit of the time in which it was created. So when three movies get released featuring the same little-known supernatural character in the same year, it’s safe to say that something new is running through America’s collective unconsciousness.

And this holiday season, that something is stern. It’s righteous. It’s Krampus.

Yes, St. Nick’s goatlike pal himself. For the uninitiated, in parts of Europe—especially in alpine villages in Austria—Santa Claus is the jolly guy Americans are already familiar with. He gives toys and treats to all the good little girls and boys. But when it comes to naughty kids, it’s all about Santa’s demonic companion Krampus—who hunts them down, whips them with a bundle of sticks, chains up the really bad apples, and drags them off to hell.

Unless you’re from Austria, the first time that you might have heard of Krampus was probably by watching a December 2013 “American Dad!” episode. Still, shortly after the show aired, US awareness of the pugnacious personality seemingly returned to its usual level of zero.

This year, out of nowhere, Krampus is suddenly on America’s radar in a big way (see: “Krampus,” “KRAMPUS: The Reckoning,” and “A Christmas Horror Story”). So I’m thinking all the sudden exposure for an archaic European folk monster could have something to do with the fact that Americans are feeling like there are a bunch of naughty people and institutions in serious need of some festive correction hereabouts.

And why not? Nationally, making a 2015 naughty list is no challenge at all. Just look at most of the Presidential candidates. From open fascists like Trump 2.0 to neoliberals like Clinton—all backed by Wall Street and a bunch of supremely naughty billionaires—it’s like: naughty, naughtier, naughtiest. So Krampus should pretty much drag off the whole lot—and maybe let Sanders off with a light switching for his militarist foreign policy, and keep him here on Earth to do a better job of running the country than anyone else who conceivably has a shot at the Oval Office next year.

Here in Massachusetts, deciding who to turn in actually takes thought. So I checked with friends on social media and quickly drew up a short list of our baddest local apples. And I’m happy to pass it on to the K man right now. In hopes that he’ll appear and apply cloven hooves to backsides later this week.

For starters, anyone who had anything to do with pushing a Boston 2024 Olympics—from John Fish to Shirley Leung—is naughty. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, already naughty for his role in the Summer Games debacle, is also naughty for not acting faster to fully replace the Long Island homeless shelter and affiliated treatment centers that his administration shuttered last year in the midst of a growing homelessness crisis. And for a number of other infractions.

The Boston Police Department is naughty for engaging in racially discriminatory stop-and-frisk practices that have disproportionately targeted Black and Latino communities for years. Then trying to brush off a damning ACLU report on the matter this summer. And basically succeeding with the help of a very naughty Boston mainstream press. Who just can’t write enough glowing fluff about the BPD to satisfy their naughty (and largely white suburban) audiences.

The Democrat-dominated Mass legislature is naughty for joining Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and paving the way for privatizing the MBTA. McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast food giants are naughty for paying their Bay State workers sweatshop wages—and fighting tooth-and-nail to stop them from unionizing. Retail outlets like Primark and Walmart are naughty on the same grounds.

Hardly an exhaustive list. Plus right-wingers won’t find much to agree with. Because there’s good reason to think that the horned one leans left. Both the fascists who ruled Austria between 1934 and 1938, and the Nazis who followed them until 1945, banned Krampus. And they wouldn’t have done that if they thought witches and socialists and free-thinkers were first in line for some magical non-consensual bondage every winter solstice.

But hey, this is fun for the whole family! Make your own naughty list. Have a Krampus party and read it out loud. Then wait for all the sweet holiday retribution to start. And look forward to a much more compassionate (and chastened) Commonwealth in the new year.

Apparent Horizon is syndicated by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. Jason Pramas is BINJ’s network director. He has a bundle of sticks and is willing to use it.

Copyright 2015 Jason Pramas. Licensed for use by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and media outlets in its network.