Monday, December 3, 2012

Krampus the Christmas Devil

Source: Wikimedia Commons

When I was growing up I loved St. Nicholas Day, which falls on December 6. My mom, who is of German descent, carried on the traditions of her mother and aunts and filled our stockings with small gifts like candy and toys. To me, it felt like an early mini-Christmas when I'd wake up in the morning and find my stocking hanging on the door. In those days, I had no idea that St. Nicholas has a dark and terrifying companion named Krampus.

A few years ago, a friend of my nephew's introduced us to Krampus. According to the website:
Krampus is the dark companion of St. Nicholas, the traditional European winter gift-bringer who rewards good children each year on December 6. The kindly old Saint leaves the task of punishing bad children to a hell-bound counterpart The Horned Devil, also known as Krampus... Usually seen as a classic devil with horns, cloven hooves and monstrous tongue, but can also be spotted as a sinister gentleman dressed in black or a hairy man-beast. Krampus punishes the naughty children, swatting them with switches and rusty chains before dragging them in baskets to a fiery place below.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

When I was a kid the main threat for misbehaving was getting a lump of coal in my stocking instead of gifts. To my knowledge, the harshest Christmas custom in American culture is telling kids that Santa will pass by their homes if they don't behave. But these threats now seem like child's play compared to what kids in Europe faced in the old days. Apparently, those parents didn't mess around.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I always love to learn about these "Old World" legends and traditions and sometimes I think it's a shame that, for the most part, they weren't carried over to North America. It seems to me that Krampus could come in handy. Recently while shopping I was unable to escape two yelling, out of control children. No matter which aisle I turned into, they were there as well, screaming like banshees and running around so much that they nearly knocked some shoppers over. I couldn't help but wish that I could tell these kids that if they didn't knock it off, a half-man, half-goat creature may just show up and cart them away to hell. ;)

Happy December, everyone!


  1. I saw a movie last year that featured that creature. Never knew about the legend until then.

  2. I love learning about legends and myths. Thanks for this, Julie.

  3. Yeesh-- harsh and traumatizing punishment for being a tad rebellious. I'll take the coal, thank you very much.

  4. I saw that vintage postcard awhile ago and was totally freaked out that there was a Christmas devil. Wow, puts that whole "naughty or nice" thing into perspective for little kids. :P

  5. Krampus is pretty darned scary.

    BTW, thank you so much for the reviews you left of Goodreads. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate knowing that someone enjoyed the books. Your words made my heart sing. I mentioned the review on a post I did last week on my blog.

  6. I feel a Christmas devil bedtime discussion coming on tonight. But maybe I'll try to soften the edges just enough so we don't escalate into nightmare territory!

  7. What a scary-looking dude! This is the first I've ever heard of this legend, and I'm glad he wasn't part of my childhood. The threat of a lump of coal in place of my orange and shiny red apple was more than enough to keep me on the straight and narrow. (more or less)

  8. @Alex, yikes, that must have been a scary movie.

    @Karen, you're welcome, I love these old legends too.

    @Julie, LOL, coal for me too.

    @LG, I was so freaked out by it too. It's one of the craziest things I've ever heard of LOL.

    @Brinda, oh, you're so welcome! I was so glad I had the chance to read your books!

    @Susan, LOL, me too. I probably would have had nightmares for months over Krampus.

  9. Krampus? Who knew?

    Happy December, Julie.

  10. @Johanna, for some reason your comment went to my spam folder. Blogger drives me crazy sometimes! Anyway, I can imagine parents might find the Christmas devil useful LOL.

  11. Krampus is rather scary looking. Although if I had kids, I could totally see me using him for them to behave. ;)

  12. I definitely remember that guy from my childhood days, only he didn't look half as scary, more like a regular human being in a dark cowl with a black broom. I guess if he'd looked anything like the creature in the first pic we would all have been scared to the bones! We call him Knecht Ruprecht over here, which basically means he's St. Nicholas' helper.
    I have a lot of fond memories of that old tradition and still love it tons. It's great that your mom introduced you to it as well!
    LOL about those kids in the store, I've no doubt Krampus would have taught them to behave!

  13. I haven't heard of this legend before. I agree with you, some parents should resurrect the legend. Maybe they could finally get their kids under control!

  14. Hmm, apparently my German heritage didn't extend to continuing that tradition. Krampus is a scary name. It could only belong to a demon.

  15. I'm grateful I never knew about Krampus. And I have German heritage, too.

  16. Hah hah hah that's disturbing! My daughter is sweating the coal though--she's terrified of getting that instead of toys!

  17. Well that's terrifying O_O

    I'm nineteen and I STILL celebrate St. Nick's day! My mom even sent a shoe full of candy last year to my dorm.

    I still remember getting an NSYNC cd when I was like 9. Best. St. Nick's Day. Ever. :D

  18. Love this story! And I especially love the pics. This is definitely an antidote to Christmas sweetness I can get behind. ;)

  19. Hi Julie - Blogger's my Grampus - it's a pain .. I'm doing everything twice or three times before the post takes - Grampus = Blogger ... and right nuisance.

    I'd never heard of him before now - but I've rechristened blogger!!

    Cheers from a grumpy Hilary

  20. @Cherie, LOL, me too. :D

    @Carina, oh, that's interesting this character looks so much creepier than Knecht Ruprecht, and that he was so much nicer. I still can't get over how scary the Krampus version is, it seems sadistic LOL.

    @Janel, I do think it could be helpful in some circumstances LOL.

    @Mary, I know, I love the name!

    @Carol, I guess the German immigrants to the US left Krampus behind. Lucky for us! :D

    @Lisa, LOL, I used to get wound up about the coal too.

    @Charmaine, I was glad to learn about, definitely different than any other Christmas tradition I know LOL.

    @Samantha, oh, how fun! I still love St. Nick's day. :)

    @Melissa, LOL, sometimes I need an antidote too LOL.

    @Hilary, oh no, I'm sorry blogger is giving you fits. But now we have the perfect name for it LOL.


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