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Who Really is Krampus?

Danielle shares the exciting legend behind Krampus, star of the holiday horror film.

Over the years, as Christianity gained popularity in the region, aspects of Krampus’ appearance began to shift to fall in line with Christian beliefs. The chains, for example, were not originally a feature of Hel’s ghoulish son. It’s believed that Christians added them to evoke the binding of the Devil. And that wasn’t the only change they made. Under Christian hands, Krampus took on a number of more devilish qualities, like the basket that he uses to carry wicked children to Hell. Today, Krampus has his own celebration on the day before the Feast of Saint Nicholas in the Alpine region.

Every evening on December 5th, a night called “Krampusnacht,” elegantly dressed Saint Nicks pair up with monstrously outfitted Krampuses and make the rounds to homes and businesses, offering gifts and playful threats. Some people exchange Krampusnacht greeting cards that depict the horned beast alongside festive and funny messages. Sometimes, large groups of people dress up as Krampus and run amok throughout the streets, chasing friends and passersby with birch sticks. This activity is especially popular among young men.Everyone knows who Santa Claus is, but do you know Krampus? According to legend, he is a half-goat, half-demon monster that punishes misbehaving children at Christmastime. His body and arms are strung with chains and bells, and he carries a large sack or basket on his back to cart off evil children. You can try to run, but you can't hide from Krampus!! He never goes anywhere alone, he has a bag of “toys”, but not just any toys. They are his minions that help him.


While St. Nicholas rewards nice children by leaving presents, Krampus beats those who are naughty with branches and sticks. In some cases, he is said to eat them or take them to hell. How did Krampus become a regular part of holiday fun in places like Austria, Bavaria, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia? Nobody is entirely certain.But most people believe that Krampus originally hails from the Alpine region’s pagan past. His name comes from the German word “Krampen,” which means “claw,” and he bears a striking resemblance to the old Norse legends about the son of Hel, the god of the underworld. They say he comes on the evening of December 5th, a night called “Krampusnacht.” You can usually hear him coming, as the soft steps of his bare human foot alternate with the clip-clop of his cloven hoof.


Over the years, as Christianity gained popularity in the region, aspects of Krampus’ appearance began to shift to fall in line with Christian beliefs. The chains, for example, were not originally a feature of Hel’s ghoulish son. It’s believed that Christians added them to evoke the binding of the Devil. And that wasn’t the only change they made. Under Christian hands, Krampus took on a number of more devilish qualities, like the basket that he uses to carry wicked children to Hell. Today, Krampus has his own celebration on the day before the Feast of Saint Nicholas in the Alpine region.

Every evening on December 5th, a night called “Krampusnacht,” elegantly dressed Saint Nicks pair up with monstrously outfitted Krampuses and make the rounds to homes and businesses, offering gifts and playful threats. Some people exchange Krampusnacht greeting cards that depict the horned beast alongside festive and funny messages. Sometimes, large groups of people dress up as Krampus and run amok throughout the streets, chasing friends and passersby with birch sticks. This activity is especially popular among young men.


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