Krampus is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Yule season who had misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards well-behaved ones with gifts. Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children in his sack and carry them away to his lair.
Krampus is represented as a beast-like creature, generally demonic in appearance. The creature has roots in Germanic folklore; however, its influence has spread far beyond German borders. Traditionally young men dress up as the Krampus in Austria, southern Bavaria, South Tyrol, northern Friuli, Hungary, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic and Croatia during the first week of December, particularly on the evening of 5 December (the eve of Saint Nicholas day on many church calendars), and roam the streets frightening children with rusty chains and bells. Krampus is featured on holiday greeting cards called Krampuskarten. There are many names for Krampus, as well as many regional variations in portrayal and celebration.
The history of the Krampus figure stretches back to pre-Christian Germanic traditions. He is sometimes said to be the son of Hel, from Norse mythology. He also shares characteristics, including goat-like ears, legs, feet, with the satyrs and fauns of Greek mythology. The early Catholic Church discouraged celebrations based around the wild goat-like creatures, and during the Inquisition efforts were made to stamp them out.[year needed]
But Krampus figures persisted, and by the 17th century Krampus had been incorporated into Christian winter celebrations by pairing them with St. Nicholas.
Countries of the former Habsburg empire have largely borrowed the tradition of Krampus accompanying St.Nicholas on 5 December from Austria. However, in the Czech Republic and Slovakia the mythological figure (called čert) evolved from the Slavic demon chort and although nearly the same in appearance, it comes from a tradition distinct from that of Alpine nations.
In the 20th century, Austrian governments discouraged the practice. In the aftermath of the 1934 Austrian Civil War, the Krampus tradition was prohibited by the Dollfuss regime under the Fatherland Front (Vaterländische Front) and the Christian Social Party. In the 1950s, the government distributed pamphlets titled "Krampus is an Evil Man". Towards the end of the century, a popular resurgence of Krampus celebrations occurred and continues today. There has been public debate in Austria in modern times about whether Krampus is appropriate for children.
Although Krampus 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 lolls out.
Krampus carries chains, thought to symbolize the binding of the Devil by the Christian Church. He thrashes the chains for dramatic effect. The chains are sometimes accompanied with bells of various sizes. Of more pagan origins are the ruten, bundles of birch branches that Krampus carries and occasionally swats children with. The ruten have significance in pre-Christian pagan initiation rites. The birch branches are replaced with a whip in some representations. Sometimes Krampus appears with a sack or a washtub strapped to his back; this is to cart off evil children for drowning, eating, or transport to Hell.
The Feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated in parts of Europe on 6 December. In Alpine countries, Saint Nicholas has a devilish companion named Krampus On the preceding evening, Krampus Night or Krampusnacht, the hairy devil appears on the streets. Sometimes accompanying St. Nicholas and sometimes on his own, Krampus visits homes and businesses. The Saint usually appears in the Eastern Rite vestments of a bishop, and he carries a ceremonial staff. Unlike North American versions of Santa Claus, in these celebrations Saint Nicholas concerns himself only with the good children, while Krampus is responsible for the bad. Nicholas dispenses gifts, while Krampus supplies coal and the ruten bundles. 
A Krampuslauf is a run of celebrants dressed as the beast, often fueled by alcohol. It is customary to offer a Krampus schnapps, a strong liqueur. These runs may include perchten, similarly wild pagan spirits of Germanic folklore and sometimes female in representation, although the perchten are properly associated with the period between Winter Solstice and 6 January. Krampuslauf 2013: http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2013/12/krampus-saint-nicholas-dark-companion/100639/
Europeans have been exchanging greeting cards featuring Krampus since the 1800s. Sometimes introduced with Gruß vom Krampus (Greetings from the Krampus), the cards usually have humorous rhymes and poems. Krampus is often featured looming menacingly over children. He is also shown as having one human foot and one cloven hoof. In some, Krampus has sexual overtones; he is pictured pursuing buxom women. Over time, the representation of Krampus in the cards has changed; older versions have a more frightening Krampus, while modern versions have a cuter, more Cupid-like creature. Krampus has also adorned postcards and candy containers.
Krampus appears in various forms, and as part of differing celebrations, throughout central Europe. In Styria, the ruten bundles are presented by Krampus to families. The twigs are painted gold and displayed year-round in the house – a reminder to any child who has temporarily forgotten Krampus. In smaller, more isolated villages, the character has other beastly companions, such as the antlered "wild man" figures, and St. Nicholas is nowhere to be seen. These Styrian companions of Krampus are called Schabmänner or Rauhen.
In the 1600s, the Lutheran Church presented a "christchild" figure in the place of the Catholic Saint Nicholas. Representing the baby Jesus but often appearing as a young maiden, this figure was also paired with Krampus in some areas. In France's Alsace region, Krampus is known as Hans Trapp and accompanies a "christchild" character during the holiday season.
North American Krampus celebrations, though rare, are a growing phenomenon. Some traditional Germanic communities in the northeast of the United States have preserved a Krampus tradition; in these he goes by Bellsnichol and combines aspects of both the wild man and Saint Nicholas.
The word Krampus (sometimes spelled "Grampus") is a derivation of the old German word for claw, but the creature has many names. Klaubauf is used throughout Austria, while Bartl or Bartel, Niglobartl, and Wubartl are used in the southern part of the country. Outside Austria, Krampus and related creatures go by Pelzebock or Pelznickel in southern Germany, and Gumphinckel in Silesia. In Hungary, he is Krampusz (often used to refer to the entire race of these creatures), and in Switzerland, Schmutzli.
In popular culture
- Random Spirit Lover, a 2007 album by indie band Sunset Rubdown, features a picture of Krampus on the back cover. Spencer Krug stated, in an interview with Pitchfork Media, that the Krampus image was placed there because "he represents the sort of duality that's a theme on the record, the two sides of every thing."
- Chickenhare, a 2006 graphic novel features a Krampus named Banjo.
- Grimm Fairy Tales, featured Krampus in their 2010 winter holiday edition.
- Jingle Belle, in the 2010 special, "Grounded", the character Peter Krampus laments at the fact that he is no longer a part of the Christmas tradition and that naughty children go unpunished as a result.
- PvP, a webcomic, began a story arc on 5 December 2011 in which the character Scratch Fury takes on the role of the Krampus.
- The Colbert Report aired a segment about Krampus and the War on Christmas called "The Blitzkrieg on Grinchitude - Hallmark & Krampus" in its 9 December 2009 episode.
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, in the episode "Wrath of the Krampus" from 2012. A creature calling itself Krampus terrifies misbehaving children.
- A Very Venture Christmas, the 2004 Christmas episode of the television cartoon series The Venture Bros. Krampus is accidentally released by a book of ancient occult magic and wreaks havoc on Doctor Thaddeus Venture's Christmas party.
- In episode 4.12 of the TV series The League, "A Krampus Carol" (20 December 2012), Taco insists on having Krampus in the mall, and winds up going on a "Krampage" (Krampus rampage).
- Krampus also appeared as a character on American Dad! in the unaired Season 8 episode "Minstrel Krampus", which was scheduled to air on 16 December 2012, but was not aired due to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
- The Hub show The Haunting Hour: The Series had a Christmas episode in which a boy who was worried about his parents divorcing gets a Krampus for Christmas that terrorizes them and, in a perverse way, makes the family realize that the one thing they need during the holidays is each other, which the family learns after the Krampus burns their house to the ground.
- CarnEvil features Krampus as the boss enemy of the Rickety Town stage.
- In the 1997 novel The Claus Effect by David Nickel and Karl Schroeder, the Krampus and Santa Claus both appear, except that the Krampus is on the side of good, and Santa is a deranged monster who hates children and believes he is doing evil by bringing them gifts they don't want.
- Krampus: The Yule Lord is an illustrated 2012 dark fantasy novel by Gerald Brom with Krampus as protagonist and Santa Claus as antagonist.
- Bruce, Maurice (March 1958). "The Krampus in Styria". Folklore 69 (1): 44–47. doi:10.1080/0015587X.1958.9717121.
- Scott, Delilah; Troy, Emma (2010). The upside-down Christmas tree and other bizarre yuletide tales. Guildford, Conn.: Lyons Press. pp. 126–127. ISBN 1-59921-419-9.
- "Run, Kris Kringle, Krampus Is Coming!". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
- "Krampus disliked in Fascist Austria; Genial Black and Red Devil, Symbol of Christmas Fun, Is Frowned Upon". New York Times. 23 December 1934.
- "Throw Out Krampus". Time Magazine. 7 Dec. 1953. p. 41. Retrieved 2011-12-18.
- Silver, Marc (30 Nov 2009). "Merry Krampus?". NGM Blog Central. National Geographic Society. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
- Alexandra, Zawadil (6 Dec 2006). "Santa's evil sidekick? Who knew?". Reuters.
- Zeller, Tom (24 December 2000). "Have a Very Scary Christmas". New York Times.
- Gatzke, Gretchen (1 Dec 2009). "Krampus? Who’s That?". The Vienna Review. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
- "Horror for the Holidays: Meet the Anti Santa". National Public Radio. Retrieved 22 December 2011.
- Siefker, Phyllis (1997). Santa Claus, last of the Wild Men: the origins and evolution of Saint Nicholas. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Co. pp. 155–159. ISBN 0-7864-0246-6.
- Beauchamp, Monte (2004). The Devil in Design: The Krampus Postcards. Seattle, Washington: Fantagraphics. pp. 14–29, 32. ISBN 1-56097-542-3.
- Apkarian-Russell, Pamela (2001). Postmarked yesteryear : art of the holiday postcard. Portland, OR: Collectors Press. p. 136. ISBN 1-888054-54-9.
- Haid, Oliver (2006). "Christmas markets in the Tyrolean Alps: Representing regional traditions in a newly created world of Christmas". In David Picard, Mike Robinson. Festivals, tourism and social change: remaking worlds. Buffalo, NY: Channel View Publications. pp. 216–219. ISBN 978-1-84541-048-3.
- Crimmins, Peter (10 December 2011). "Horror For The Holidays: Meet The Anti-Santa". National Public Radio.
- Miles, Clement A. (1912). "VIII". Christmas in ritual and tradition : Christian and Pagan. Toronto: Bell and Cockburn. pp. 227–229. ISBN 0-665-81125-X.
- McLean, Movern. "Schmutzli: the Swiss Santa's sinister sidekick". swissinfo.ch. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
- Flickr Image of the back cover
- Interviews: Sunset Rubdown
- Dark Horse’s Chickenhare Getting Animated By Sony
- Santa Vs. The Krampus: Grimm Fairy Tales Holiday Edition 2010
- Newsarama.com: Paul Dini and Jingle Belle Meet Krampus, Get GROUNDED
- PvPonline » Archive » Good Tidings We Bring
- The Blitzkrieg on Grinchitude - Hallmark & Krampus
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated - Season 2, Episode 13: Wrath of the Krampus
- The Venture Bros: A Very Venture Christmas Episode
- Blickley, Leigh (2012-12-15). "'Family Guy,' 'American Dad' Pulled By Fox In Wake Of Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Krampus.|
- 100's of Krampus Images
- Krampus website
- Account of a Krampuslauf
- Swiss legends
- Austrian legends
- Krampus in Tirol
- "The Truth About Krampus" article on Atlas Obscura
- Bruce, Maurice (1958). "The Krampus in Styria". Folklore 69: 45. doi:10.1080/0015587X.1958.9717121.
- Honigmann, John J. (1977). "The Masked Face". Ethos 5 (3): 263. doi:10.1525/eth.1977.5.3.02a00020.