The Legend of Krampus


The new “holiday” movie “Krampus” has hit theaters raising a few questions about the origins of the legend.

What is Krampus? Well going back to the folk tales of the Alpine Region in Europe, including much of Germany, Austria and northern Italy; Krampus is a Christmas demon, and he’s Saint Nick’s companion. This legend of Krampus filling the role of Saint Nick’s sidekick goes as far back as the 17th century.

Krampus in depicted as a mixture of all sorts of ghoulish creatures that can include man, bats, goats, Devils, and yetis. However, he is typically a devilish goat character with long mangled horns, overgrown shaggy hair and a tongue that rolls out of his mouth. Krampus isn’t too easy on the eyes, and he’s definitely not the meaning of good intentions for Christmas.

As Santa’s little helper, Krampus has a special job in the time leading up to Christmas; he punishes the bad children on the eve of Saint Nicholas’s Day, when the Saint arrives with all the presents for the children that survived.

Dec. 5th is Krampus’s night. If a child has been bad, Krampus may leave a bundle of sticks as a present for them. That’s if they’re the very lucky children. Others might get a necessary beating with the sticks. For the not so lucky ones, he sticks them into a sack or a basket and throws them into a stream to drown or he just escorts them to Hell itself. The day after is Dec. 6th, the Feast day of Saint Nicholas. This isn’t usually an American custom and is observed mostly in Europe with places that have close ties with Western Christianity. Though the Feast of Saint Nicholas closely resembles North American Tradition on Dec. 25th.

This legend of Krampus is a way for parents to keep their young from misbehaving, buy telling them a demon will beat them, drown them, or take them to the fiery gates.

Though now mostly seen as a folktale, Krampus is celebrated every year in festivals called Krampanacht on Dec. 5th, the eve before Saint Nicholas Day. Krampanacht is a festival in many countries like Germany and Austria. People make Krampus costumes with their own twist on the demonic character. The festival usually involves parties with guests masquerading as Krampus, Devils, wild-men and witches. The participants are usually there for the Krampus run, or Klampuslauf. The participants, often intoxicated, bear torches and run around terrifying bystanders of all ages. In some more dedicated communities, the Krampus actually hit bystanders with sticks.