|Carrying on an old tradition, pictured here are two men dressed up as Krampus and St. Nick.|
|Notice St. Nicholas in the window as Krampus arrives at the door.|
|This image would be particularly offensive in America, today.|
"Krampus isn't exactly the stuff of dreams: Bearing horns, dark hair, and fangs, the anti-St. Nicholas comes with a chain and bells that he lashes about, along with a bundle of birch sticks meant to swat naughty children. He then hauls the bad kids down to the underworld."
What are the origins of this "Christmas Devil"?
Krampus, whose name is derived from the German word krampen, meaning claw, is said to be the son of Hel in Norse mythology. The legendary beast also shares characteristics with other scary, demonic creatures in Greek mythology, including satyrs and fauns.
The legend is part of a centuries-old Christmas tradition in Germany, where Christmas celebrations begin in early December.
Krampus was created as a counterpart to kindly St. Nicholas, who rewarded children with sweets. Krampus, in contrast, would swat "wicked" children and take them away to his lair." -national geographic
Although Krampus appears in many variations, most share some common physical characteristics. He is hairy, usually brown or black, and has the cloven hooves and horns of a goat. His long pointed tongue lolls out.
Krampus carries chains, thought to symbolize the binding of the Devil by the Christian Church. He thrashes the chains for dramatic effect. The chains are sometimes accompanied with bells of various sizes. Of more pagan origins are the ruten, bundles of birch branches that Krampus carries and occasionally swats children with. The ruten have significance in pre-Christian pagan initiation rites. The birch branches are replaced with a whip in some representations. Sometimes Krampus appears with a sack or a washtub strapped to his back; this is to cart off evil children for drowning, eating, or transport to Hell.
The Feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated in parts of Europe on 6 December. In Alpine countries, Saint Nicholas has a devilish companion named Krampus. On the preceding evening, Krampus Night or Krampusnacht, the hairy devil appears on the streets. Sometimes accompanying St Nicholas and sometimes on his own, Krampus visits homes and businesses. The Saint usually appears in the Eastern Rite vestments of a bishop, and he carries a ceremonial staff. Unlike North American versions of Santa Claus, in these celebrations Saint Nicholas concerns himself only with the good children, while Krampus is responsible for the bad. Nicholas dispenses gifts, while Krampus supplies coal and the ruten bundles.
|The Judgment - Naughty or Nice?|
A Krampuslauf is a run of celebrants dressed as the beast, often fueled by alcohol. It is customary to offer a Krampus schnapps, a strong distilled fruit brandy. These runs may include perchten, similarly wild pagan spirits of Germanic folklore and sometimes female in representation, although the perchten are properly associated with the period between winter solstice and 6 January.
|Woodcut of Krampus|
Europeans have been exchanging greeting cards featuring Krampus since the 1800s. Sometimes introduced with Gruß vom Krampus (Greetings from the Krampus), the cards usually have humorous rhymes and poems. Krampus is often featured looming menacingly over children. He is also shown as having one human foot and one cloven hoof.
Vintage Krampus Greeting Cards:
In some, Krampus has sexual overtones; he is pictured pursuing buxom women. Over time, the representation of Krampus in the cards has changed; older versions have a more frightening Krampus, while modern versions have a cuter, more Cupid-like creature. Krampus has also adorned postcards and candy containers."
"In case you weren’t aware, Christmas is celebrated slightly differently all over the world, and with various offshoot characters in regards to the whole St. Nick deal. Case in point: the Krampus."
Listverse.com wraps up the Krampus concept, quite humorously:
"Primarily derived from Germanic folklore, this demon is Santa’s right-hand man on Christmas Eve. He accompanies the fat man to all the children’s houses, where they put the kids on trial for their ability to obey their parents. If you’ve been a good little boy or girl, you get a lovely wooden horse or something. If you’ve been a prick, into Krampus’ bag you go, later to be devoured in his lair, which is located behind Dick Cheney’s house. Other translations have the beast just cutting out the middle man and taking you to hell, or beating the crap out of you with a bundle of birch branches."