History

Krampus: Mythical Holiday Beast

photo of Krampus

Santa isn’t the only one who knows if you’ve been bad or good this year. In fact, he even has a sidekick that helps him pick out the good apples from the rotten. Meet Krampus: Saint Nicholas’ fiendish, ‘half goat, half demon’ partner in crime.

Continue on reading to learn more about this mythological holiday beast known as Krampus.

Legend Of Krampus

With a menacing expression, bared fangs, curled horns, sharp claws, clamouring iron chains and bells as he roams, the physical appearance of Krampus undoubtedly is able to strike fear into any child’s heart. His objective throughout history during the Yuletide season remains one and the same: to ensure the goodwill of children through his unorthodox methods of swatting misbehaving kids with birch branches or bringing them down to the underworld for a year, perhaps never to be seen again.

Evolution Of Krampus

The tradition of Krampus predates Christianity and traces its roots back to Germanic paganism and traditions of Norse and Alpine regions of Central Europe including Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia. In Pagan traditions, young men dressed up in fur costumes and carved masks, parading through villages ringing bells and making noises, with the purpose of scaring away entities and spirits which were thought to have descended from the mountains. Just like other Pagan traditions, Krampus became associated with the Christmas tradition as Christianity became more widespread in Europe. With Krampus’ resemblance to the Devil, the Catholic Church imposed a change to the figure’s appearance through the addition of iron chains, representing his inferiority and position of servitude to Saint Nicholas. The tradition faced a lot of resistance from the church during the 12th century and in the early 1930s from conservative and nationalist parties of Austria and Germany who outlawed the celebration of this custom, up until the collapse of the government after the Second World War.

Krampus Today

To commemorate this ancient tradition, people have taken to dressing up as Krampus while intoxicated, and roaming around the streets for a Krampuslauf or a ‘Krampus Run’, loudly ringing their cowbells while chasing and swatting spectators with gold painted birch sticks. The largest Krampuslauf in the world is held in the city of Schaldming, Austria, which in 2019 had about 800 Krampus’ in attendance.

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