Krampus is a legendary creature from Austrian and Hungarian folklore and is associated with Christmas. On Christmas Eve, while Santa Claus hands out the presents, Krampus deals out the punishment.
Krampus gets his name from the old German word for “claw”. In Austria, Santa Claus is called St. Nicholas and his helper is a terrifying demon named Krampus, who travels with him on Christmas Eve.
Krampus is a red-faced goat-horned demon who is covered in shaggy black fur. He has chains hanging from his body and he rings a large cowbell. He has a long waggling red tongue, a tail and carries a big stick and a large black bag.
On Christmas Eve, Austrian children place their shoes on the window sill or outside their bedroom door. While they sleep, Santa Claus and Krampus visit their house. If they’ve been good, Santa leaves candy and treats in their shoes. If they’ve been bad, Krampus beats them with his stick. If they’ve been really bad, Krampus puts them in his sack, carries them off and throws them in a river.
Just imagine this: It’s Christmas Eve and you’ve just finished watching a Christmas movie with your family or singing Christmas carols by the fireside. You’re settling down to sleep when suddenly, an enormous shaggy monster with horns bursts into your bedroom, dragging chains and ringing a bell. He attacks you and beats you over the head with a stick while you scream for your parents to help you. Then, he stuffs you into his bag and kidnaps you as your parents stand by and do nothing. Finally, he throws you into a river and drowns you. All this, because you didn’t behave yourself during the year.
The legend of Krampus became so popular that his story spread throughout Europe. It became especially popular in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia and Northern Italy.
Today, Krampus Day is celebrated on December 5th. In country towns, some men dress up in furs, heavy boots, and a ghoulish mask topped with horns. Then, carrying sticks and ringing bells, they go around town, visiting the houses of families with small children. When the parents open the door, the men run in and terrorize the kids. They start growling and whipping the air with their sticks. The children scream and cry. After everyone’s had a good fright, the parents invite the men to sit down and have a drink.
“I’m from originally Austria and I spent many years as a child being chased around town by Krampus. It is one of the scariest experiences you can have as a child growing up in Austria. It’s also one of the biggest adrenaline rushes because the danger is quite real. Once, Krampus saw my friends and I and began chasing us. We jumped fences and ran through backyards and Krampus just kept coming after us. When he catches you, he usually gives you a pretty good whipping around your legs, and yes it hurts. It’s also really scary. I can never forget that terror as a child.” – Christoph.
“I’m Austrian and quite familiar with the Krampus, since I got beaten by him several times in my childhood.” – Nina.
“My family lived in Germany when I was young. My siblings and I had the opportunity to meet Krampus every Christmas. It was truly terrifying as a kid! Krampus would come into our house. We were lined up as he asked us questions about how good or bad we had been all year. Krampus had a big bag full of kids with legs and arms sticking out that would actually move around and whimper. Krampus would walk over and whack the bag with a whip. Oh man, we didn’t want to end up in that bag!” – Gavin.
Just when you thought Christmas was the one time of year that couldn’t be scary… along comes Krampus.