Opinion: Forget Father Christmas, it’s time to introduce children to the terror of Krampus, says Matt Gaw

'Greetings from Kampus' A greeting card from the 1900s

'Greetings from Kampus' A greeting card from the 1900s - Credit: Archant

It’s finally happened. Although my children are only three and six, the magic of Father Christmas has been lost.

Of course, they still believe in him; that faith is unshakeable. But where before the mere mention of Santa’s name in parental threats to desist and refrain brought forward heartfelt apologies, I have recently been forced to employ increasingly elaborate ploys to get the kids to toe the line.

The slippery slope probably began last year. Quite soon after the annual Father Christmas threat was wheeled out (it usually starts about mid August) it became clear that the usual ‘Santa can see what you’re doing’ patter lacked its punch.

Panicking slightly, I eventually resorted to fake phone calls to Lapland – first to the toymakers (we chatted about everything from naughty lists to the need for elf unionisation) before demanding to speak to the big man himself.

But come December, even these calls were shrugged off and failed to stop whinges, squabbles or get those shoes on more quickly. In fact, the week before Christmas, I was forced to invest in a personalised video message from Santa to restore a sense of order.

I knew I was backing a no-hoper. In short, the kids had realised that Santa is a soft touch and the kindly old goat will still produce his lovingly-wrapped goods no matter how many times Dad tells him repeatedly to deliver ‘only coal this year’ in increasingly heated phone exchanges.

So, this year, I’m thinking about changing tack in my efforts to police the kids. I need a bad cop to counter Santa’s benevolent bobby.

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Meet Krampus. Or as he’s known in various incarnations across Europe – Knecht Ruprecht, Certa, Perchten, Black Peter, Schmutzli, Pelznickel, Klaubauf and, of course, the Christmas Devil.

Bearing horns, fangs and a foot-long tongue, he is said to be the son of Hel in Norse mythology and is part of a centuries-old Christmas tradition in Germany.

Whereas cuddly old Santa dishes out gifts to good children, the demonic Krampus has made his name by swatting naughty children with birch sticks and chains before bundling them off to his lair. A place, I imagine, that’s not rammed to the rafters with gingerbread houses and candy canes.

Perhaps it’s the effectiveness of Krampus’ powers of child control that have so endeared him to Germans and Bavarians, who even have entire festivals dedicated to tearing round dressed as the shaggy-haired demi-god on ‘Krampusnacht’.

Who knows, maybe it’ll catch on here. Forget queuing up at the shopping mall or Christmas fayre for Santa’s grotto, his power is gone. This year we’re popping to Krampus’ lair.

Of course, according to experts there are easier (and possibly less psychologically damaging) ways to discipline children that don’t involve sherry-soaked immortals or shaggy-haired demons.

Indeed, there seems to be a fairly sound consensus that goading children into behaving with promises of lavish rewards (ie Santa’s gifts) is not the best idea in that it fails to teach self-control and doing the right thing for its own sake.

Parental forums, which have debated the ethics of the Santa bribe (I don’t think they’ve yet discovered the joys of the Christmas Devil) for years, are more practical still, warning against turning what should be a magical time into an empty threat.

After all surely cancelling Christmas is even worse than the Krampus?

Matt Gaw will be writing a weekly column, This be the Verse