Krampus: The Christmas Fiend That Punishes The Naughty

Dec 19, 2022 | Mysterious Creatures

December 19, 2022
6 min read

It’s that special time of year again.

Houses are adorned with Christmas lights and stockings are hung by the chimney with care. Children anxiously wait to find out if Santa will bring gifts or coal for their stockings.

But it’s not the coal that children should worry about. They should worry about the possibility of being beaten before being dragged to hell to be tortured and eaten by Krampus.

Who is Krampus?

For those not familiar, Krampus is a half goat, half demon that accompanies Santa during the holiday season. Legend says that while Santa will reward the good children, Krampus will punish the bad children.

Old card reading "Gruss vom Krampus" ("Greetings from Krampus"). Historie čertů KrampusUploaded by Kohelet, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The legend of Krampus is a centuries old pre-Germanic Pagan tradition from the Alpine region of Austria and Germany.

Believed to be the son of Hel, the Norse ruler of the underworld, it makes sense that he has been depicted as devilish in appearance. In fact, in the 12th century, the Catholic church tried to ban Krampus celebrations due to his similarities to the devil, but to no avail.

In the middle ages, the legend evolved and Krampus became somewhat of a companion to St. Nicholas, some even claiming he’s Santa’s evil twin.

As no surprise, the jolly St. Nick would be responsible for rewarding the good children. Meanwhile, Krampus, with his frightening and demonic appearance, complete with horns, fangs, a long tongue, chains and bells, would punish the naughty.

Surviving Krampusnacht

Traditionally, December 5th is Krampusnacht, or literally “Krampus night”. This is the night that Krampus would visit to punish those who misbehaved. With only the sound of jingling bells to signal his arrival, children would wait in fear for their fate.

Any naughty children would be chased down and beaten with a bundle of birch sticks. If Krampus caught one, the child would be stuffed into a sack and dragged to either his lair or hell. Once there, they would be tortured or eaten.

1911 circa anonymer Künstler Wiener Werkstätte Postkarte No. 542, Krampus mit Kind. Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

On December 6th, the feast day of St. Nicholas, the good children who survived the night, could peer out their door to see if Santa had left them any gifts, and spend the day celebrating.

Krampus – The New Holiday Celebrity

Somehow, this charming tradition stayed mostly contained to certain areas of Germany and Austria throughout history. It wasn’t until the 1800’s, when seasonal postcards featuring Krampus were spread to the rest of the world, alerting people to his presence.

In modern times, with the availability, the legend of Krampus has gone viral. Memes were made, movies produced, and festivals worldwide now celebrate him.

Traditional krampuslauf with wooden masks on December 9, 2017 in Bad Toelz, Germany. Stock Photo ID: 778232194

Traditionally, village men would have a few drinks, dress up as Krampus and take to the streets to frighten children. Ushered into the modern era, organized Krampuslaufs, translated to “Krampus run”, around the world allow people to get involved. Throughout the holiday season, people carry on this tradition by dressing up as Krampus and partying while scaring each other.

With Krampus’ new found fame and worldwide recognition, now we are at least prepared to be on our best behavior to stay safe when Krampus comes to town.



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