Who? What? Krampus. Still not sure what you’re watching out for? It’s Krampus, the Christmas Demon- a mythical beast that accompanies St. Nicholas to visit all the children. Krampus doesn’t get the same attention here in the United States as in the Alpine countries where he originated, maybe first in what is today Austria. The creature pre-dates Christianity and is similar in many ways to a satyr. It is beast-like in appearance, almost demonic and accompanies the kind and generous St. Nick on his visits to children. On the eve of St. Nicholas Day, December 6th, the pair would visit all the children. St. Nicholas rewards the good children with treats and gifts. Krampus handles the naughty with warnings, punishments, and sometimes carts them off to be eaten! Krampus is a frightening sight to behold. It is hairy, usually brown or black, with cloven hooves and horns of a goat, and a long pointed tongue. Krampus carries chains sometimes attached to bells and a bundle of branches used to swat at the bad kids. It carries a tub or sack to carry off bad kids to be drowned, eaten, and sometimes taken to hell. To begin your schooling on Krampus, take a few minutes to explore the official website at Krampus.com.
For generations the tradition of Krampus was practiced throughout the Alpine countries where parades and festivities were held annually on December 5th. Drunken revelers crowd the streets dressed as Krampus and celebrating the coming of the beast. These Krampuslaufen, as they are known, would run through the streets and people would offer them the gift of schnapps as they passed. The night gained popularity with its emphasis on Pagan customs and traditions. The powers-that-be have tried to be rid of Krampus and all the debauchery of Krampusnacht for centuries. The Catholic Inquisition worked tirelessly to be rid of Krampus to no avail. Even up through the 20th century the governments of modern Europe have tried to curtail the popular festivities. The allure of Krampus has survived. One of the more popular parts of the culture is the tradition of giving friends and family Krampuskarten. These are greeting cards depicting Krampus interacting with children and others in a humorous way, sometimes with sexual overtones.
In the early part of this century there has been a burst of interest in Krampus. References can be found in comics, graphic novels, television, videogames, and music. Krampus was reintroduced to Americans in a 2009 feature on the Colbert Report. Check out this little video depicting a visit from Krampus, A Krampus Carol by Anthony Bourdain. If you need still more information, you must read Topless Robot’s 10 Fun Facts about Krampus. So you better watch out if Krampus is coming to town!