It’s the 5th of December…and today is Krampusnacht.
I learned of Krampus from a movie, funnily enough, isn’t that how we all learn about such historical facts? It was a story which I found a little horrific but also oddly comforting. I mean, we let a jolly old man in a red suit into our houses on December 24 every year, or so we tell our children…why not have a team of good and evil peruse houses and reward or punish children?
I’m not sure how or why the legend came to be, and many have claimed it is over a thousand years old and linked to a pagan ritual for the winter solstice.
So, with that, let me tell you what I learned about Krampus.
Who is Krampus?
It is believed that Krampus is a half-goat, half-demon who punishes misbehaving children. Forget Santa’s naughty and nice list, you don’t want a visit from Krampus. He won’t be delivering coal to your stockings. Instead, it is said he would chase and beat naughty children with sticks, even on occasion eating them or taking them to Hell.
Krampus is the devilish companion to St Nicholas, who funnily enough, has his own day on December 6 which I will go into a little further down.
The Krampus Night (Krampusnacht) story originated in Germany, as most sources state, and given that his name is derived from a German word, I’m tempted to believe it.
After all, Krampen means claw.
What did he do to naughty children?
While St Nicholas rewarded nice children, Krampus, according to legend, beat children who were naughty with branches and sticks. In some cases, he was said to have eaten or taken them to hell. This story was so obviously created for children to behave during the year, and you know, sometimes when I’m in line at the shops and I see kids acting up with their poor mother or father, I understand why a parent would tell them the story of Krampus. What’s a little fear to knock some sense into you?
How did the story come about?
Krampus was thought to have been part of pagan rituals for the winter solstice. According to legend, he is the son of Hel, the Norse god of the underworld. With the spread of Christianity, Krampus became associated with Christmas-despite the Catholic church trying to ban him.
It is said that both the creature and St Nicholas arrive on the evening of December 5. Krampus deals with the bad kids and St Nicholas rewards the good.
December 6 is St Nicholas Day, where children awaken to find their gifts or nurse their injuries. I think I’d much prefer a lump of coal…wouldn’t you?
I’m sure I know a mother or two who would be horrified to find their child had injuries after waking from a sleep!
Does anyone still believe in Krampus?
Well, festivities do continue to this day. There is the Krampuslauf or Krampus run. This activity involves alcohol, people dressed as the creature parade through streets to scare those who have dared to look upon him and upon occasion, chasing people. There have even been reports that those who participate by chasing, will chase delinquent children, and hit them with sticks.
These festivities are believed to have arisen in the last 20th century in order to preserve the cultural heritage. It is most popular in Austria and Germany, however, over the last few years, some places in the United States have started with parades and similar festivities to mark the night of Krampus.
In summation, I can see a lot of parallels with our Santa. A man who can see whether a child has been good or bad all year round. The old ‘Don’t you make me call Santa. I’ll tell him not to bring your presents’ line which I know my mother used a time or two on me. It gives a whole new meaning to “you better watch out, you better not cry” from one of my favourite carols.
You can find out more about Krampus below or by checking out these movies: https://screenrant.com/horror-krampus-christmas-every-movie-ranked/
Sources: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Krampus, https://historythings.com/krampusnacht-what-is-it-and-how-did-it-start/