Krampus-2

Schnapps, whipping and sacks: how Christmas traditions evolved around the world

Carole Cusack, University of Sydney

Christmas has become a cultural event, associated with the giving of gifts and lavish meals with friends and family.

But the traditional understanding of Christmas is that it’s a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus.

The idea of giving gifts may be traced to the Bible, in which the infant Jesus was presented with gold, frankincense and myrrh by the Three Wise Men, named in apocryphal texts as Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior.

This received a boost in the Middle Ages, when Boxing Day, December 26, became a holiday when masters gave their apprentices and other employees “boxes” – that is, gifts.

Yet the celebration of Christmas has distinct variations around the world. Some of these local traditions are very interesting and arise from particular historical circumstances.

The figure of Santa Claus, the jolly bringer of presents to good children, is derived from St Nicholas, a fourth-century Christian bishop of Myra.

Two famous stories are told of him, that associate him with gifts and children:

  1. He rescued three girls from a life of prostitution by giving their father three bags of gold for their dowries.
  2. He brought back to life three young boys who had been murdered and pickled by an evil innkeeper.

Santa Claus has elves and reindeer as companions in general Western folklore. But in other traditions around the world, Santa’s helpers are far less friendly.

Sinterklaas arrives each year at a different port and children prepare by leaving carrots for his horse and putting out a shoe.
from www.shutterstock.com

The Netherlands: naughty kids are taken to Spain

In the Netherlands, Sinterklaaas brings children presents on December 5 (the day before the feast of St Nicholas, December 6).

Dutch traditions say that Sinterklaas lives in Madrid, wears a red clerical robe and a bishop’s mitre, and has servants called “Zwarte Pieten” (Black Peters).

He arrives each year at a different port on November 11. Children prepare by leaving carrots for his horse and putting out a shoe for presents to be put in.

The Zwarte Pieten keep lists of the naughty children who receive pieces of coal rather than gifts. Very naughty children are put into sacks and taken to Spain as a punishment.

The reason Sinterklaas lives in Madrid is because between 1518 and 1714 the Netherlands was under the control of the Holy Roman Empire, at that time ruled by the Hapsburg Dynasty of Spain. Spain, therefore, meted out both punishments and rewards to the Netherlands (as the Zwarte Pieten and Sinterklaas do to Dutch children).

Though Zwarte Pieten are black because they spent so much time in chimneys, in the modern Netherlands many are concerned that they may be racist.

The companion of St Nicholas is the sinister Krampus, a terrifying creature with fangs, horns and fur, who punishes naughty children by whipping them with sticks.
from www.shutterstock.com

Central Europe: St Nicholas’ companion is a sinister creature that whips bad children

In central Europe, including Austria, Bavaria and the Czech Republic, the companion of St Nicholas is the sinister Krampus, a terrifying creature with fangs, horns and fur, who punishes naughty children by whipping them with sticks, called “ruten bundles”. These whippings are intended to make bad children good.

Those who cannot be whipped into niceness are put into Krampus’ sack and taken back to his den (somewhat akin to the Zwarte Pieten and Spain).

Also similar to the Zwarte Pieten is Krampus’ gift of coal, though he also gives ruten bundles (sticks sprayed with gold paint displayed in houses all year round) to remind children to be good throughout the year.

Krampus has pagan origins and is claimed to be the son of Hel, the goddess of the dead in Norse mythology.

The den to which he takes bad children is the Underworld, which literally means that if you are naughty you will die.

This pagan origin made the Christian churches in central Europe hostile to Krampus, in particular the Catholic Church, which banned rituals dedicated to him.

In the 21st century, as the influence of Christianity has receded, these traditions have been revived with great enthusiasm.

Groups of men dress as Krampus and rowdily parade through towns on Krampusnacht (December 5, before the feast of St Nicholas), drinking Krampus schnapps – a traditional fruit brandy brewed extra-strong for the occasion – and scaring children.

Some Krampuses bear more than a passing resemblance to Chewbacca, with horns! Krampus has now been immortalised in film, with “Krampus”, a horror comedy directed by Michael Dougherty, being released in 2015.

Santa can sometimes wear a blue suit.
flickr

South Korea: a family occasion where it’s fashionable to attend a Christmas church service

South Korea has more Christians than many Asian countries and Christmas is a public holiday there, even though 70% of the population is not Christian.

Christmas trees abound, decorated with twinkling lights and often with a red cross on the top. Lavish Christmas displays in shop windows are common. It’s also a time of family celebration.

For many non-Christians, it has become fashionable to attend a Christmas church service, and groups of people walk through neighbourhoods singing Christmas carols.

Christmas cake (though not European-style fruit cake, but either sponge cake with cream, or ice-cream cake) is a popular seasonal indulgence. Christmas dinner, however, is firmly Korean and usually includes noodles, beef bulgogi and kimchi (pickled cabbage).

Santa Claus also features and is called Santa Kullusu or Santa Haraboji (Grandfather). He may sometimes wear a blue suit instead of a red suit, something that was common in the 19th century, when Santa Claus was often portrayed wearing blue or green, until red became the most popular colour.

Yet Christmas is not the great consumerist event that is common in the West; Koreans generally give one gift only to close friends and family.

The ConversationNew Year, which is a huge festival in all East Asian cultures, has far more extravagant celebrations. But Christmas is very popular with younger Koreans and is likely to become a larger part of cultural life in the future.

Carole Cusack, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Krampus

Meet Krampus – Austria’s terrifying alternative to Santa’s little Christmas helpers

If you’re looking to shake-up the crazed Christmas season this year, there’s a horned, fanged, half-goat half demon waiting in the wings for you, reports news.com.au.

Krampus is the other half of a good-cop, bad cop scenario that used to be presented to Medieval kids in Eastern Europe.

Naughty children are his target. And he’s out to give them a good spanking — and drag them kicking and screaming down to the underworld once they cross that line.

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Russia’s humiliating ban from the Winter Olympics is the right move to protect integrity in sport

Jack Anderson, University of Melbourne

As the result of a state-sponsored doping regime in the lead-up to and during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has banned Russia from participating at next year’s games.

Bans from the Olympics are not unprecedented. In the aftermath of the two world wars, certain countries – like Germany and Japan – were not permitted to compete.

Also, the IOC banned South Africa for three decades from the 1960s because of its apartheid regime. Afghanistan was suspended from the Olympics in 1999, partly because of the Taliban’s ban on the participation of women athletes. It did not send athletes to the 2000 Olympics.

The ban on Russia from competing at next year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea is, however, unique: it is directly linked to the country’s lack of sporting integrity.

How might Russia react?

The ban is a humiliating blow to Russian sport generally but also to the country’s president, Vladimir Putin. His interest in winter sports was evidenced by Russia spending a record US$51 billion on hosting the Olympics in 2014, which surpassed the previous record Beijing set in 2008.

But just one Olympic cycle later, the integrity of that event – at which Russia topped the medal table – has been undermined, and the Russian flag will not fly at the 2018 Games. Russian state TV has already said it will not broadcast from South Korea, where the country’s athletes were expected to be medal contenders in one-third of its 102 events.

Aside from Putin’s reaction, there are several further points of interest arising from the ban.

First, it is likely that Russia will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Russia appealed its ban from the 2016 Rio Paralympics – it remains banned from the Winter Paralympics – to CAS. This time, expect the appeal to be founded on the due process argument that the reports upon which the IOC’s decision is based – the McLaren reports of 2016 and the IOC’s Schmid Commission – were investigatory only. While the evidence, at first instance, appears compelling, Russia has yet to test or answer it in an adversarial setting.

Second, the IOC’s ban is not a blanket prohibition, and the IOC has said that it will allow athletes from Russia to compete under a neutral flag and as “Olympic Athletes from Russia”.

Similar to what occurred in the lead-up to the Rio Olympics in 2016 – where a ban on Russia competing was contemplated – the IOC has laid down strict testing criteria which such neutral athletes must satisfy before being declared eligible. Expect multiple CAS appeals to emanate from the IOC’s interpretation of criteria.

Echoes and lessons of history

CAS appeals may be rendered moot if Russia, as has been hinted, decides that such is the disproportionate, biased nature of the IOC’s actions that it will fully boycott the event and prohibit its athletes from competing even as “Olympic Athletes from Russia”.

Boycotts have historical connotations. The last time Russia hosted an Olympics (in Moscow in 1980) it boycotted the subsequent (1984) Games for political reasons relating to the Cold War.

One of the consequences for sport in the Cold War era was the use of sporting success as a propaganda tool. The Soviets and many of its satellite states – notably East Germany – used sophisticated state-sponsored doping regimes to fuel this success.

Echoes of that regime, particularly the East German system, resonate today. Its system was not so much state-sponsored but state-mandated.

Evidence from the surviving athletes themselves and from the Stasi files of the era reveal that young East German athletes rarely had a choice when it came to ingesting almost industrial levels of steroids, which had a devastating impact on their long-term health.

Team versus individual doping

The issue of informed, collective consent and fault in sports doping has been discussed at CAS – notably in the Essendon drugs case in Australian rules football. And the nature of doping infractions in a team setting is often much more nuanced than might first appear.

Athletes generally have a real-time appreciation of their bodies: their focus is on the next game or event; they often, rightly or wrongly, assign their long-term health to others in their entourage or support staff.

While doping ultimately reveals itself in the testing of athletes’ samples, as a matter of causation or responsibility, fault may lie elsewhere.

In Russia’s case, it is of note that the IOC has also banned its current deputy prime minister and former sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, from all future Olympic Games. But while Mutko will not be able to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics, he will continue to be the chief organiser for the 2018 football World Cup, which Russia will host.

FIFA, world football’s governing body, does not believe this is an impediment to Russia hosting the World Cup. But expect its attitude to come under intense scrutiny in coming months, as well as the wider issue of the prevalence of doping in football.

Finally, banning Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics was a straightforward decision for the IOC. The trickier issue will come with regard to the 2020 Summer Olympics. Will Russia have reformed its anti-doping policy and procedure to the standards expected by entities such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)?

The criteria used by WADA and others to judge Russia will be highly technical in nature. Perhaps the most important way to gauge Russia’s good faith on this matter would be to see how it treated three key whistleblowers who have been central to this whole affair: Vitaly Stepanov and his wife Yuliya, and Grigory Rodchenkov.

The ConversationThus far, Russia has traduced them. They no longer live in Russia, but in fear. If Russia continues to discredit them, it should remain discredited in the eyes of the sporting world.

Jack Anderson, Professor of Sports Law, Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

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Huge cost of a smashed iPhone X screen

IF you’re getting the Apple iPhone X, you probably don’t want to drop it — or you’ll want to get Apple Care+ coverage with your deal.

Apple has revealed how much it will cost to repair the phone if the screen is damaged.
In Australia, an iPhone X will cost $418.95 to just repair the screen without AppleCare+.

That is almost twice as expensive as the cost of repairing a screen on an iPhone 8 Plus ($268.95) or an iPhone 8 ($228.95).

 

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Two Catalan separatists in Spanish custody

A Spanish judge has remanded two key members of the Catalan independence movement in jail.

Jordi Sánchez, who heads the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), and Jordi Cuixart, leader of Omnium Cultural, are being held without bail while they are under investigation for sedition.

The men are seen as leading figures in organising a 1 October independence vote, which Spanish courts suspended.

The government in Madrid branded the vote illegal.

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On North Korea, Trump Insists “only one thing will work.”

DONALD Trump has issued a dire threat to Kim Jong un as Russia warns of North Korea’s next missile launch.

US President Donald Trump said that diplomatic efforts with North Korea have consistently failed, adding that “only one thing will work.”

Trump has engaged in an escalating war of words with North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un, trading insults amid rising tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

“Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid,” Trump tweeted.

It “hasn’t worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, makings fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!” The US has not ruled out the use of force to compel Pyongyang to halt missile and nuclear tests, and Trump has threatened to “totally destroy” the country.

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Is this Mary Magdalene?

Is this Mary Magdalene? Forensic reconstruction of a holy relic puts a face to the skull of a Saint

WAS she a prostitute? Was she Jesus’ wife? Mary Magdalene has generated fascination and controversy for more than 2000 years. Now we may know what she looked like.

THE relic is one of the most precious in all Christendom.

It’s a blackened skull. A scattering of bones. A bundle of human hair.

But these human remains have been kept as holy relics in a crypt beneath a basilica of a medieval town in the south of France for more than 1800 years.

Now, scientists have been able to put a face to the skull many believe belongs to one of the most controversial players of the New Testament.

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Massive US/Aus field warfare exercise begins in Queensland

AS North Korea threatens us and our allies with a developing nuclear capacity, more than 30,000 Australian and American military personnel are giving a well-drilled response.

Today, some 10,000 soldiers are defending Stanage Bay, north of Rockhampton. It was the largest beach landing by Australian troops since WWII and will be followed by 10 days of field warfare.

They are in north Queensland for Operation Talisman Saber (TS17), the biggest joint exercise by the Australian Defence Force with American partners, which this year includes participants from New Zealand, Japan and Canada.

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Astronaut John Glenn has died aged 95

JOHN Glenn, whose 1962 flight as the first US astronaut to orbit the Earth made him an all-American hero and propelled him to a long career in the US Senate, has died aged 95.

The last survivor of the original Mercury 7 astronauts died at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where he was hospitalised for more than a week, said Hank Wilson, communications director for the John Glenn School of Public Affairs.

Glenn was the ultimate all-American hero. He was the first American to orbit the Earth, a war hero fighter pilot, a record-setting test pilot, a longtime senator, a presidential candidate and a man who defied age and gravity to go back into space at 77.

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Trump Calls For US To Exit EU

Saying it was time to ‘make America Great again’, Republican presumptive Presidential nominee Donald Trump has begun a bid for his country to leave the European Union.

At a rally today, Mr Trump said. “Why should we answer to Brussels? Who even knows where Brussels is? I do. I’ve been there. I know loads of people there. And they’re not Americans. We’re Americans. Which is why we need to leave the EU. If I’m President, it’s the first thing I’ll do”.

“People are laughing at us. They’re actually laughing at us. People say to me, ‘Donald, why is America part of the European Union?’ And I say ‘Obama’. And they say ‘I hate Obama’. And I say, ‘I know Obama. I’ve met him. He’s not even American. And the European Union isn’t American either’.

“I know all the best unions. And the European Union is not one of them. The best union is the United States. So why are we even part of the EU? Let’s give the EU the finger. We won’t even need a referendum. We’ll just leave. I don’t even care if they try to stop us. I’m sick and tired of people trying to stop America leaving the EU”.

A poll today showed that 48% of Americans supported Donald Trump’s plan to leave the EU.