It’s Her Prerogative

a1Here’s an interesting piece of history,

direct from the Muscleheaded Post Card collection.

If you grew up in the United States before 1990,

— you probably remember the junior high school tradition of the ‘Sadie Hawkins Day’ Dance.leapy

Girls are encouraged to invite guys to dance with them —

instead of the usual arrangement —

—- and I do remember it produced some surprising matches.

Females, as we all know,

— tend to use different attraction/selection criteria for mating than males,

which makes the dynamic all the more interesting.

claraI remembered reading that the Sadie Hawkins dance was named after a cartoon character in the Lil Abner comics,

— starting in the late 1930’s.

Apparently, in the comic strip,

single women had the option of pursuing and marrying a single man of their choice, on a single day in November each year.

Here’s the original strip from 1937 explaining how it all started.


Of course, this isn’t really where the idea originated.

It’s actually drawn from several much older Celtic traditions, from at least 800 years ago–

which gave women the prerogative to propose marriage–
— but only during leap years, which only occur every four years.

( 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020, etc)

In some places, this was narrowed down further
to only one day in those years —

February 29–
the ‘extra day’ —
the Leap Day.

A totally accurate picture of how and where this tradition, “The Ladies Privilege”, developed is clouded by time and mythology —


Oral tradition has it that it was invented by Ireland’s Saint Patrick,

as a way of marrying off nuns who had tired of their cloister,

leapdays…….. or single women who had no desire to become a nun.

Several writers refer to a 13th century Scottish Law,

written by the guardians of Queen Margaret,

(who was only 5 years old at the time)

providing specific penalties for turning such a proposal down —

1912It would cost the man a fine of:

one pound, a rose, a kiss, and a pair of leather gloves.

In the 16th century, single women were encouraged to wear pants during leap year,

—- at least according to a play popular during the time.

And in the 19th, it’s said that red petticoats became de rigueur attire for ladies wishing to celebrate the Leap Year with a conquest.

All we know for sure is that it’s an old tradition,

—- and underwent a renewal of popularity around the turn of the 20th century.leap

Interesting postcards from that era,
on the Leap Year theme, abound —

Usually they are done in a tongue in cheek style indicating that while the tradition still existed,

— it was not practiced in any serious way.

No longer did a man have to pay a fine–

but it was still considered to be a bringer of bad luck,
and not to mention,
very bad form,
to turn down a lady’s proposal during leap year.

leapThe best a man could hope for,
it appears,
is to keep a very low profile,
in order to keep his bachelorhood intact for the entire 366 days.

Overall, it’s a pretty interesting and amusing theme…

Everybody seems rather desperate,
to either ensnare,
or escape.

But there’s also a whispered nuance of sexuality to some of the cards,

and even a secret thrill of implied female dominance, perhaps.

quesAnd looking back,

I can’t help but wonder……

Did the tradition of the Leap Year Ladies Privilege itself had any real effect on society at large ?

Well, frankly,

I doubt it.

The revival of interest in the tradition died off around the time women received the right to vote in the US,

—- and it’s little remembered today,
except in the Sadie Hawkins tradition.

dontshootBut it could be argued that a few of these postcards had an undertone that served the purposes of the anti-suffrage movement —

—  in projecting a society that would be out of kilter, full of obstreperous females and weak, emasculated males.

There were certainly cards issued during that era that were much less subtle in expressing that very fallacious, but prevalent idea —

tug— that granting women suffrage would lead to social disintegration.

But as far as these Leap Year cards were concerned, their main function was entertainment, and not social propaganda.

I do know that many famous couples started out with the lady proposing —

Including Queen Victoria of England, who described the scene in her dairy:

mineatlastAt about half past 12 I sent for Albert; he came to where I was alone, and after a few minutes I said to him, that I thought he must be aware of why I wished him to come here, and that it would make me too happy if he would consent to what I wished (to marry) ; we embraced each other over and over again, and he was so kind, so affectionate… I told him I was quite unworthy of him and kissed his dear hand.”

Zsa Zsa Gabor claimed that she had proposed to every one of her nine husbands, stating:

” A woman has to make up a man’s mind “.girl

Halle Berry,
Elizabeth Taylor,
Jenny McCarthy,
Brittany Spears,
Heather Mills,
and Jennifer Hudson are other women who have taken the lead in proposing marriage —-

It’s just no big deal, anymore.

Why should it be?

Men lose nothing by letting women do what makes them happy —

Hell, along the way,
they might end up making us happy, too.

Ya never know.

And it is certainly fun to see
these old cards and understand
the context in which they were a part.




Krampus ( No, Not The Stupid Movie )


Let’s face it.

Everything is life has it’s polarity.

Even Christmas-time.

My grand father used to tell me about this wild eyed character who would leave coal in your stocking instead of goodies–
if you had been a naughty boy.

Or he might just:
club you in the head,
stuff you in his sack,aaa
and take you away
to where all the bad kids ended up.

I figured it was just a hoax…
dreamed up by grandfather,
outta sheer desperation —
having to deal with his own batty brood,
led in mischief by my future Dad–
and then finally, ME.

Not that I was a bad kid, ya know….

I was a joy.

Ask anybody who thinks that.aa

I really didn’t get naughty
— until —
much, much later in life.



Little did I dream that one day
I would find that the dark conspirator of the whole coal in the stocking thing
was the remnant of an ancient European tradition called Krampusnacht .2

Celebrated on the day before St. Nicholas Day —
December 5,

this Krampusnacht holiday is probably not gonna seem all that in tune with modern Western sensibilities,

…. but nevertheless is observed all around the Alpine region of Europe, including:

Northen Italy…

Not to mention in traditionally ‘Amish’ areas of the United States like central Pennsylvania,
where he is called ‘ Bellsnichol ‘ –kram

He also shows up with that name in some parts of Maryland and Indiana.

The star of this particular holiday is a archetypal trickster type named Krampus

… although he is known by different names depending on the region of Europe ….

like ‘Black Peter’ ,
‘Pelznickle‘ ,
and ‘Knecht Rupert’ .

He visits the homes of children,
usually accompanied by Saint Nick himself,4

….. and deals with the bad kids,
while Saint Nick gives presents to the good ones.

he just scares the bejeeezes outta them,

…. other times,
he hits em on the bottom
with a birch branch broom called a ‘ruten’,1

Or he threatens to carry them off in his bag or basket to the nether regions.

Another variation of the tradition
has him leaving lumps of coal instead of gifts.

Imagine the good cop-bad cop scenario,
— only with Saint Nick and Krampus.

There has been a long tradition in Europe
of exchanging Krampus greeting cards,

many of them featuring the legend:
Gruß vom Krampus “

( Greetings from the Grampus ).

2Some of the vintage cards picture the Krampus menacing little children,

but he also has a rather naughty reputation with the ladies,
as he is more often shown in cards
leering or flirting with voluptuous women.

He seems to have a particularly strong taste for curvy redheads.

(He’s starting to sound like a rather sensible feller to me…..  )

He can be pictured in a number of ways:
as a demonic type creature with horns and claws,
part-goat, part wild-man ,
or in more of a Pan-esque humorous way….

I dunno how scary he really seems, in any case,
but I guess it depends on where you come from,
3and where you’ve been.

I’ve known scarier people
working at the mortgage department of the bank.

Just sayin.

The word “Krampus”
is derived from the old German word for “claw”,

… and usually he will have that characteristic at least, 1
along with an excessively long tongue.

(Which perhaps explains his appeal to the ladies….)

He is especially fond of maids who are inclined to be a bit free with their attentions.

And he’s not lacking any forward-ness , of course…..

Despite his often demon-like appearance,
— he is not to be confused with the devil —

— more like a horny, malevolent imp—4

and it is said that Saint Nicholas may dismiss the Krampus at his own pleasure.

In many European towns and villages,
the Krampus is said to wander through the streets on the night before Saint Nicholas Day shaking rusty bells and chains,

— to remind children about the importance of behaving themselves….

This is thought to have been part of the original functional source of the legend…

……. teaching that, just as goodness is rewarded,

so misbehavior is punished.

Just how effective this has been over the centuries is difficult to measure,3

….. but the legend has had it’s ups and downs in popularity over the years……..

It can be traced, in its current form,
back as far as the 16th century in Austria,

…. and is thought to have been derived from a much older pre-Christian Teutonic legend.

Popes have been generally hostile to the practices,
and the Catholic Church has played down the practice…

……… while Lutherans replaced Saint Nicholas with a Christ-like child,
or a maiden.

After about 1930,
Krampus2012Austrian authorities have attempted to suppress the Krampus traditions several times, without success.

Current forms of the Krampus image lean toward a fear-mongering horned monster,
as a counterpoint to the joyful innocence of the Yuletide….

There also has been a revival of the ‘ Krampuslauf ‘
or ‘Run of the Krampus’ ),

… which involves groups of people dressed up as the Krampus ,

….. inspired,
in some part at least,5
by the copious consumption of Schnapps.

( and when you think about it,
…. what goes better with a little hell raising than a lot of Schnapps? )

These usually occur in the period between December 5 and December 25,

…. and sometimes feature females dressed as ‘Perchten‘ ( female wood nymphs ) .

( actually,
this is starting to sound like a lot of fun, isn’t it ?? )

as you can probably tell,

1Krampus-nacht can make for a very sexy holiday festival —
ya know,
and all that.

Krampus-nacht parties have also gained popularity in the United States,
as an alternative
or adjunct to Christmas celebrations.

The largest one, in Philadelphia,
drew hundreds of folks last year,
and was certainly a spectacle worth seeing.

Yow, was it.

This year’s adult-couples-only festival is being held
at High Protocol on December 5th at 9PM ,
at 2533 Emery Street in Philadelphia.2

And no,
I’m not doing Kinky Santa this year.

Thanks for asking.

I know you’re disappointed —

you could always do the Krampus Pub Crawl in St. Louis —
starting at Yaquis on Cherokee Street around 5 pm on the 5th.

By the time the party kicks into full gear around 11pm,
you won’t care who’s dressed up as what.

If you don’t wanna drive that far,
you wanna bring the whole family,
— you’re no fun anymore) 3
and if you happen to live near the Queen City –
Charlotte, North Carolina –

( No,
Cincinnati just stole that nickname from us )

The No-Da arts district’s celebration of KrampusKrawl is also being held
the weekend of December 5 —

— at,
where else,
36th Street and North Davidson.


the whole ‘scare-yer-kids-senseless’ dynamic notwithstanding,

…. the next time you’re looking to spruce up…..
( yes, a Christmas tree pun.. so, sue me )
…………. your holiday celebratin’…

you might consider donning your Krampus apparel….

…… hey, you never know what you’ll get away with dressed like that !!!