A scary list indeed: 25 Terrifying Facts About Krampus To Give You Nightmares! If you thought your in-laws were the scariest part of the holiday season, think again. The Krampus is an icon of Germanic folklore whose origins are older than even Jesus Christ.
While American children are greeted with a lump of coal for being naughty through the year, German children are threatened with something a bit more corporal. If you’re lucky, Krampus will only whip you with his bundle of birch sticks. For the truly naughty, he takes you right back to his home of fiery Hell.
Today, he is still celebrated with parades and fun (albeit painful) traditions that have spread across the globe. In today’s list of 25 Terrifying Facts About Krampus to Give You Nightmares, we’ll see how the child-eating holiday hell beast stacks up against your mother-in-law.
The day after Krampusnacht is Nikolastaug, or St. Nicholas’ Day. This is the very same St. Nicholas whose Dutch name, Sinterklass, evolved into Santa Claus. So, for those children who survived the night of Krampus, presents can be enjoyed the next day.
December 5th is Krampusnacht, a day dedicated to Krampus. Today, that usually looks like men and boys dressing up in masks and costumes to run through the town in a Krampuslauf (Krampus run), but the legend tells of a night of terror when Krampus would visit each house. Sometimes, he would leave a bundle of sticks for naughty children. And sometimes he would beat them with it.
Krampus brings a kind of a yin-yang balance to Christmas as St. Nick’s dark companion. He was originally a pagan creation, thought to be the son of Hel from Norse mythology. But since the 17th century, the two have been linked during the holiday. Traditionally, costumed figures of the two visit houses together on Krampusnacht—St. Nick brings the gifts, Krampus brings the pain.
Krampuslaufs can be dangerous places if you don’t know what to expect. The demon of legend would whip people with his birch bundle, and the costumers don’t hold back either. Onlookers have been terrorized and ended up being chased and gone home with bruised shins. But it’s all in good fun, right? At least they only go for the legs.
Krampus costumes vary, but usually revolve around something like a devil, bats, or goats. The demon is said to have protruding horns and a long tongue. He also sports one human foot and one cloven foot, and no one is entirely sure why.
When Austria was under Fascist rule between 1934 and 1938, Krampus was banned. Seen as symbol of sin, anti-Christian ideals, and Social Democrats, the government forbade Krampus dances and pledged to arrest costumers if seen.
A lot of effort goes into the Krampus costumes each year, especially the masks. They are usually hand carved from wood by specialist artisans. Antique Krampus masks can even be found in museums across Europe.
For revelers who wish Halloween was celebrated longer, take heart—the U.S. and Canada have a burgeoning Krampus scene across its major cities. Los Angeles holds traditional Krampuslaufs, and the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn hosts a yearly Krampus themed costume party, just to name a few.
Krampus has been featured in several different forms of media across the times. One rather unflattering version was as a boss in an arcade game called CarnEvil. The game itself was odd and just not very good, so Krampus came across more cartoony than evil, saying things like “I’ll stuff YOUR stocking!”
As if Krampus weren’t scary enough on his own, some stories feature him traveling with a big old evil family. Though a group of demons stalking your town is nothing to laugh at, some of their names are just downright hilarious. “The Door Slammer,” “The Window Peeper,” “The Sausage Snatcher,” and “The Doorway Sniffer” are just a few of the 13 evil cohorts than hang out with Krampus.
Unlike Satan, who he bears a strong resemblance to, Krampus is no fallen angel. Though his stories all vary, they seem to agree on the fact that he is need a demon from Hell, and delights in bringing people back with him.
Though an icon of German folklore for longer than any can remember, Krampus is hitting the modern scene with all this demonic power. He’s appeared on several television shows like Supernatural, Venture Brothers, Grimm, American Dad and even the Colbert Report.
Most Christmas cards feature families with ugly holiday sweaters, or some sweet, picturesque scene, but you’ll find something quite different in Austria, Germany, and other parts of the Alpine region of Europe. Krampus cards have been a tradition for some time, depicting images of the demon stuffing children into sacks or whipping them with chains. From ours to yours!
The idea of Krampus stealing away children to the underworld may actually come from the time when Moors raided European coasts and abducted people into slavery, which was very much its own kind of hell.
Offering an angry Krampus a drink may just save your soul from eternal damnation. Naturally, he likes the good stuff, and it is customary to leave out a goblet of schnapps for him. Leave the sweet stuff for Santa, Krampus is obviously too sophisticated for cookies.
Hide your kids, hide your wife
In some tales, Krampus doesn’t just have a hunger for children. He will target women and have his way with them, too!
Krampus costumes can take on many different forms depending on which region you are celebrating in. In the state of Tyrol, Austria, Krampus’ appear as massive straw suits. In Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, there is another straw Krampus who goes by the name Buttnmandln.
With the recent surge of Syrian and Afgani refugees, locals of the Alpine towns that celebrate Krampus were concerned their new neighbors might be scared or offended by the tradition. Before scheduled festivities took off, refugee children in Lienz were invited to a presentation about Krampus to educate them about the costumes and origins.
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