There is no greater motivation in life than sheer, abject terror.
Sure, rewards systems have their place. People are motivated to succeed when they are given a gold star. They even get motivated by credit cards promising to return 1% of money spent, in what has to be the loosest interpretation of the phrase “reward system” ever.
But what is a stronger motivation than a nice pat on the back? Simple: not being kidnapped and eaten.
Thus, during the holidays, we turn to Krampus.
In Alpine countries, Krampus is a creature that hangs out with Jolly Old Saint Nicholas. You know, the nice, bearded fellow who gives gifts to kids. Yeah. He and Krampus are good friends.
Whereas St. Nick rewards kids who have been good by giving them stuff, Krampus wanders in with him, finds the bad kids, and then picks on them incessantly. He literally tags along just to box ears and yank on ponytails.
Because nothing says Christmas like a little bullying.
However, some kids are so awful, just harassing them isn’t enough. Don’t worry, Krampus is prepared for these particularly awful situations. You see, he brings a sack along with him, and the awful kids get put in the sack and carried away, likely to be eaten.
Apparently the rest of the family just has to be cool with this.
Through the years, Krampus has continued to be a holiday tradition in these Alpine countries. Every December 6th, they celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas. The night before? That’s Krampus time, baby.
How exactly does one celebrate the existence of Krampus, and all the holiday cheer he brings? Simple. People get dressed up in awful costumes and wander through the streets clanging bells and rusty chains to scare children.
An event tied to this is a “run” of sorts known as the Krampuslaufen. Participants sprint through the streets of the city in full Krampus costume. To no one’s great surprise, the run is fueled by alcohol, as the custom is to offer any Krampus you see a sweet liquor.
See? In-laws aren’t the only reason to drink during the holidays.
More amazing than the continuation of these traditions is the fact that they haven’t spread elsewhere. Costumes? Booze? Rusty chains and bells? Seems like something everyone can get behind.
Let’s be honest here: Santa Claus isn’t really a great reward system. Sure, the claim is that all good kids get gifts and bad kids get coal. But nobody who claims that the children will get coal if they’re naughty actually goes through with that. They would be awful people if they didn’t give their children things that they didn’t deserve.
So all kids, regardless of moral standing, end up with gifts, not coal. There’s no true motivation to be good.
Why not involve Krampus? That way, on Christmas morning, the children aren’t just excited to receive more material goods that they will be bored with by that afternoon. They’re excited to wake up and see another day.
Imagine Christmas in that world:
Kids wake up early on Christmas morning, but not filled with anticipation of opening gifts. No, they are simply excited to still have breath in their lungs.
The sheer joy in their voices as they run to the living room, thrilled with the ability to continue living their lives, wakes their parents. Children unwrap presents, now with a healthy understanding of how to enjoy these gifts. They know that the greatest gift of all is the gift of life.
Mom and dad rest by a warm fire when dad gathers the family around. He look all of his children squarely in the eye, and says,
“Congrats, it’s Christmas! You’re still here, despite the ever lingering threat of being stuffed in a burlap sack and carried away! Here’s to one more year of not being eaten by Krampus!”
And what says Christmas more than that?
Merry Christmas, guys.