The Krampus, the goat-like German Christmas demon, is responsible for spreading a festive mix of anxious joy and existential terror every year on December 6th when he comes to punish the naughty children. But once the Christmas season is past, who takes over the hallowed task of striking warmth and dread into the hearts of people, throughout the year?
Valentines Day – der Herzensbrecher (The Heartbreaker)
In Germany, it is recognized that love and fear lie very close together! February 14th is the day that a cursed angel resembling a tortured gargoyle skulks in the shadows, quietly stalking those who don’t yet know that someone has a crush on them. Der Herzensbrecher will appear at the home of the beloved at dusk, assault the windows with stone-tipped arrows, then wail old German folk songs of unrequited love until it receives an offering of drug store chocolates and overpriced carnations, sometimes from neighbors eager to cease its anguished howls. Der Herzensbrecher is thanked in many German wedding speeches for having united the happy couple.
International Women’s Day – Frieda die Frauenversteherin (Frieda the Understander of Women)
A female demon herself, Frieda had to fight hard for emancipation from her captivity in the underworld. Erratic and emotional, she is only allowed her freedom to walk the earth on International Women’s Day, showing up at offices and other places of work to pelt anyone with a uterus with tampons. Stay-at-home mothers or unemployed women are visited in the home and screamed at in Bavarian to “get a job, you’re reversing decades of progress!” Frieda is naturally hairless and considers herself a feminist. In Germany, she is as popular as Hillary Clinton.
Easter – Antichrist-Hase (Antichrist Rabbit)
According to old German lore, the Antichrist-Hase is the devil himself, a shape-shifter that often appears as a harmless bunny, but can also be lurking in the form of a soft, salty pretzel at the local bakery or maybe the jerky neighbor’s BMW in the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost. Any child who can catch the Antichrist-Hase in rabbit form will have the thrill of being granted three wishes in exchange for their eternal soul!Parents rejoice when they find the small pile of sulfuric animal droppings, as the experience of doing ill-advised business with a satanic bunny is thought to be character-building.
Arbor Day – Baumfolter (Tree Torture)
Understood to be the soul of an evil tree that once lived in the Black Forest but was burned down after being accused of witchcraft back in the 1790s, when the Brothers Grimm were still young. Baumfolter’s presence can be felt from dawn until nightfall on Arbor Day by any dog-walkers who allow their pets to relieve themselves on a neighbor’s favorite oak, by woodcutters with rusty axes, and anyone brave enough to light a fire in their functioning fireplace. Anyone desecrating trees on Arbor Day will experience the righteous sting of Baumfolter’s twiggy fingers switching them across the backside.
Father’s Day – Old Jürgen Salzwasser (Old Jürgen Saltwater)
The ghost of an old sailor who made the grave mistake of leaving his family to make his fortune at sea, but ultimately drowned in a storm off the coast near Lubeck. On Father’s Day, Old Jürgen Salzwasser drags his soggy body from door to door, coughing up puddles of haunted bilge water and leaving a bawdy poem warning of the dangers of abandoning home in every father’s boot. Any dad away on a business trip gets the extra warning of a dead mackerel. Good friends with Frieda die Frauenversteherin.
Thanksgiving – Dirk der dankbare (Dirk the Grateful)
An American cousin of Krampus who emigrated with the Pennsylvania Dutch in the 18th century, Dirk der dankbare is a centaur who visits families celebrating the year’s harvest with a communal meal. Dirk reeks of Oktoberfest hops and is known for his merciless but also merry nature! When Dirk raps on the door with his hoof, the entire family must drop their forks and immediately say what they’re grateful for. Anyone who can’t think of anything is dragged outside by Dirk, who then playfully strikes them in the head with a pumpkin. If the gourd breaks, every seed must be collected, roasted, and eaten by the family. If they miss only one, all male members face seven years of servitude (Siebenjahrepflichtdienst) in which they become indentured to Dirk der dankbare, or alternatively Cousin Krampus, should he need assistance a mere two weeks later in carrying out his own acts of punishment.
Holidays are indeed a time for love and merriment, but also for reflection upon our general state of hopeless human deficiency. Or, as the old Bavarian saying goes, “celebrate, if you must – but at your own peril!”
Jenn Knott is a comedy writer based in Bavaria, Germany who’s written for publications like McSweeney’s, The American Bystander, The Belladonna, Slackjaw, & Points in Case. She really hopes you’re doing ok. Find her on Twitter @jkusesherwords or at jennknott.com.