As many of you are already well aware, the Krampus legend has already been making its way into our popular culture over the last several years. If you’re not familiar with Krampus, he is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries such as Austria, Germany, Switzerland etc. who accompanies Saint Nicholas. Unlike Saint Nicholas who rewards good children with gifts, Krampus punishes the naughty children with coal, switches them or if they are particularly bad, he captures them in a sack strapped on his back to feast upon them later.
How about a devil with flaming coals for eyes, matted fur and twisting stag horns who slaps people with birch twigs and kidnaps children in a large sack or casket so he can later drown or eat them?
Now we’re talking. And specifically, we’re talking about Krampus : a bestial demon of debatable historic origin who haunts Central Europe in December, and particularly during the Krampusnacht festival . Some say Krampus is a holdover from pre-Christian pagan nature spirits turned into a devil by the Catholic Church. Some say he’s always been a devil, as evidenced by his rusty chains and shackles, symbols of his escape from Hell.
Whatever the case may be, Krampus plays second fiddle and assistant to St. Nicholas —you probably know him as Santa Claus— during the Feast of St. Nicholas (December 6). The hairy fiend threatens to beat naughty children with bundles of ruten, or birch twigs, or stow them away in a sack even as St. Nick rewards nice kids with presents. Gifts or human trafficking: Christmas does not play around in the Alps.
Krampus is described as a hairy beast with cloven hooves and large horns on its head. It is usually demonic in appearance. Krampus carries chains to symbolize the binding of the Devil by the Christian Church and carries a sack on his back to put the most naughty children in. Krampus will sometimes carry bundles of birch branches to swat at children with.
In more modern times, Krampusnacht is celebrated by festivals throughout Europe on this night where participants don intricate Krampus costumes and parade through the streets. Participants use the festivities as a reason to consume alcohol and party as well. In recent years, American Krampus Night celebrations have begun to pop up across the country. Bloomington, Indiana features a Krampus celebration tonight and is growing in popularity.
Austria is where Krampus celebrations evolve from village parade to full on festival. Austria is where Krampus is so popular, psychologists and schools are considering banning the creature because it’s so ubiquitous and scary to children. Austria is where a Krampus Museum can be found in the town of Suetschach.
Krampus is growing ever more popular in horror cinema lately. It has developed into its own sub-genre of horror with several films already released on the subject and more in various stages of production. As of right now, the feature film Krampus by writer & director Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat) debuted last night to a #1 box office for Friday night, narrowly beating out The Hunger Games sequel.
So all the naughty children need to beware tonight, for Krampus may be coming to town!
Below I have included some images of Krampusnacht participants and their incredible costumes, enjoy!
Click on each link to enlarge!