Krampus is watching. Be good!
While Halloween is by far my favourite holiday, I also celebrate Christmastime with at least a few garlands and decorations at home, as well as the giving of gifts to close family and friends. Being of part German descent, I’m fascinated by the traditions and lore surrounding Krampus and Krampusnacht at the beginning of December. The images associated with this character are incredibly creepy and it’s surprising that many of these were used as postcards.
Krampus is a scary looking horned figure described as “half-goat, half-demon”, who punishes children during the Christmas season. Krampus goes after children who have misbehaved throughout the year, unlike Saint Nicholas who rewards good children with gifts and sweets.
Although he 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 sticks out and he bares fangs.
Krampus carries chains and thrashes them for dramatic effect. They are sometimes accompanied with bells of various sizes. He also brings ruten, bundles of birch branches which he occasionally swats children. The birch branches are replaced with a whip in some representations.
Sometimes Krampus appears with a sack or a basket strapped to his back; this is to cart off bad children for the awful fate of drowning, eating, or transport to Hell (for the really terrible ones). Some of the older versions make mention of naughty children being put in the bag and being taken.
In traditional parades and in such events as the Krampuslauf (English: Krampus run), young men dressed as Krampus participate; such events occur annually in most Alpine towns. Krampus is also featured on holiday greeting cards called Krampuskarten.
On the night of Dec. 5, Krampus Night or Krampusnacht is celebrated, when the wicked hairy devil traditionally appears on the streets. The lore is that he visits homes and businesses, sometimes accompanying St. Nicholas and sometimes on his own. Krampus brings naughty children coal and the ruten bundles to punish them.
Krampuslauf for Krampus
Krampuskarten – unique greeting cards
Here are more examples of Krampuskarten, greeting cards of Krampus, sent in advance of Christmas cards, both as a warning and a bit of fun before the holiday season. Perhaps one might send these shortly after Halloween, they’re scary enough!
Until the next blog, be good!