Everybody knows Santa clause, the jolly old elf that has a habit of making his way from home to home on Christmas Eve giving toys and bringing joy to goodly children of this world. However, only a few people are familiar with his ugly dark colleague, Krampus. In many European countries, the celebration of St. Nicholas Day wouldn’t be the same without a festival on its eve- December fifth, honoring Krampus the dark servant.
The name Krampus originated from the Old German term meaning “claw”. The towering, 7-foot tall, hairy being is portrayed as having big bulging eyes, pointed years a whip-like tongue and horns at the top of his head. He always carries a pitchfork or bundles of switches used to menace kids as he moves through cities and towns on a mismatched pair of feet: one hoof that is cloven and the other a bear- like claw. Wayward kids caught by this frightening creature are whipped, spanked, & even shackled so as to be spirited away in a barrel or a basket to Krampus lair. As soon as they are there they are given further punishment till they’re repentant.
Krampus festivities around European communities curtain-raise the holiday season with people putting on Krampus regalia, running uncontrollably through the streets & putting a scare in the young ones. As soon as the children are given a thorough fright to make sure they stay narrow and straight, the rowdy Krampus creatures are given holiday spirits, schnapps and traditional beer as a present. In fact the Krampus celebrations have become so famous that sometimes they last for several days before the arrival of St. Nicholas on 6th of December.
If you revel in spirited fun of Halloween, then Krampus is the best addition to your holiday festivities as well as traditional Christmas!
For a long time, Santa clause has been known as the Christmas symbol, bring joy as well as rewards to all good boys and girls. However, if you are a young star in Australia, Germany, as well as other parts of Alps region, there is certainly something much darker, uglier grumpy and mischievous hiding in the shadow adjacent to old St. Nick. That something is none other than Krampus or the Christmas demon.
This beastly creature with fur, horns, and fangs, Krampus is known to announce his presence with loud blasting bells & frighten kids who have been stubborn during the year. Whilst Santa clause gives the good children joy and gifts, Krampus on the other hand gives the naughty children beatings with a whip (that is made from horsehair and birch sticks) and also nightmares. As for those children who have been really really naughty throughout the year, Krampus puts them in his sack (or a wicker basket he carries on his back) & takes them all the way to his lair- which is the underworld- not to be seen forever.
So how did the mysterious imaginary creature come to be part of Europe’s Christmas Tradition?
Krampus was born high up in alpine European countries or more specifically, where the legend was made. Krampus is a son to Hel, the goddess underworld ruler. There are also some physical similarities between Greek mythical creatures and Krampus- specifically the hooves and the horns of fauns and satyrs.
According to scholars’ estimation, Krampus began to appear around the 13th century, if not much earlier- maybe in the 11th. Originating in Austria and southern Germany( the place called Bavaria), this beastly creature moved to other countries in Europe such as Czech republic, Switzerland, Hungary & even Alp villagers of Italy, at times with variations on the practiced customs and the name. For instance, in Tyrol (a western Austrian state) Krampus tends to appear like a giant sadistic teddy-bear. In western Germany, he normally arrives with Santa, sitting shot-gun in his sleighs. In Styria( south-east Austria), his birch sticks used for whipping naughty kids are gold-painted & deliberately displayed year round, to remind naughty children of his impending arrival.
The Krampus history stretches back to the pre-Christian Germanic traditions. It’s also important to note that the early Catholic Church discouraged such festivities based on the wild goat-like beastly creature, & during the inquisition, there were efforts to uproot them. However, Krampus persisted, and by the 17th century, Krampus figure had been successfully incorporated into Christian celebrations by being paired with St. Nicholas.