I first heard about Krampus (the darker side of Santa) from a glamorous customer buying supplies for a Krampus feast, and soon after nearly died laughing listening to David Sedaris' essay, "Six to Eight Black Men". I am no Krampus expert, but I'm smitten with the concept and decided to make little bunches of switches for party favors...
Krampus is St. Nick's colleague in Austria, Slovenia, & Croatia (see "Companions of Saint Nicholas" on Wikipedia and "Who Is Krampus?" on krampus.com for more information), and has similarly ominous counterparts throughout Europe. There are aspects of the Krampus story & rituals that mystify me, but it's fascinating, and there are definitely some people on my gift list who appreciate a bit of legend & occult this time of year.
- While you work, I highly recommend listening to David Sedaris read his tale of the Dutch Christmas story, in which a Santa-like figure may bring you presents but might beat you with switches or kidnap you, too! The "Live At Carnegie Hall" version available through NPR is the best, or you can read the essay in Esquire.
- I got a bundle of curly willow at San Francisco's Flower Mart, but if you live in a more tree-filled neighborhood there are probably plenty of twigs & branches available for free, thanks to pruning or winter storms.
- Trim the little sticks to various lengths with clippers or sturdy kitchen scissors, and cut enough for all your bunches- about 5 sticks per bunch seemed about right.
- Dip the larger end of each stick in red Plasti-Dip for a touch of...ominousness. Follow Plasti-Dip instructions carefully, and be sure to have lots of ventilation. Dip each stick slowly, pull up, and twist. The twist creates a nice finish at the bottom.
- Leave to dry for about an hour, and be sure to protect all surfaces in case of drips!
- Though each bundle will be held together with twine, it is important for the sticks to fit together nicely. Hold the first twig in one hand, and add more with the other. Pay attention to how they fall together, how they hold themselves. You're looking for an organic arrangement, and if you have to force any of the twigs into position they probably won't stay that way for long. This may sound annoying but it's incredibly meditative to let the sticks tell you where they want to go!
- Wrap and tie with twine or other suitably old-world material.
- This smaller size is great for gifts, but large arrangements in clear vases would look amazing on the mantle or as table decorations.
Images: Tess Wilson