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December 23, 2004
I'm Siding With The Feminists On This One

Today's Opinion Journal reports on a strange Austrian custom whose time has surely passed -- The Krampus Run. This may sound like a bowel disorder to American ears, but to Salzburg natives, the Krampus rampage represents a cherished if chaotic Christmas tradition ... but the mayhem aims squarely at women, in what seems to be celebration of male rage:

The Krampus is to Salzburg what the bull is to Pamplona, an oversized beast that sends an adrenaline rush of terror through the cobblestone streets of the old town, all in the name of cultural heritage. For a full week during the start of the holiday season, scores of Krampuses stalk the cobbled ways of Salzburg and its surrounding villages. The Krampus is a hybrid-beast of pagan origins that has been affixed to the Christmas season and looks like he stepped out of the pages of Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are." Only instead of inviting young boys for midnight monster romps, they stalk young women, fondling them, throwing them over their shoulders and whipping them with wooden switches until their shins and thighs are black and blue. They prowl the streets, wander onto public buses, and storm downtown restaurants where, after assaulting female patrons, they are treated to free schnapps to fuel their further fury.

According to author Timothy Ryback, some Austrian women declare themselves thrilled to participate in the Krampus tradition, while others live in fear of the ridiculously attired men. Ryback, an American who lives in Austria, faces a divide even in his own home; his wife abhors the tradition while his 9-year-old daughter delights in it.

Try doing this anywhere in America and see what happens. In blue-state America, you'd get sued into oblivion, and in red-state America, the Krampus would be lucky not to get shot. I have to indulge my cultural bias here and wonder what the hell Austrians are thinking. If the Krampuses targeted everyone, I suppose I could see it as a bit of fun, although I'd draw the line at terrorizing schoolchildren. If the Austrians developed a bit of code for willing victims -- say, a blue ribbon in the hair or some such -- then that would make more sense. But a tradition built on beating women randomly for just being out in public between four and eight in the afternoon sounds more like a male rage fantasy than a harmless holiday tradition.

Given the history of that region, one would think that the Austrians would show more circumspection about encouraging random beatings of particular demographic groups. The popularity of such a ritual seems more revealing of the Austrian and Teutonic culture than the Salzburghers might find comfortable. At the very least, I'm happy to report that American men almost universally find women's legs more attractive when they're not bleeding and bruised. Too bad Salzburg men have different predilections.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 23, 2004 9:31 AM

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» Captain Ed Takes on the Krampus from The Colossus
Those culturally superior, tolerant Europeans and their holiday festivities. I'm with Captain Ed on this one: Try doing this anywhere in America and see what happens. In blue-state America, you'd get sued into oblivion, and in red-state America, the Kr... [Read More]

Tracked on December 23, 2004 2:27 PM

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