While this Christmas, most children and cultures are waiting for Santa Claus to come on Christmas Eve, drink the milk and cookies and leave some goodies, he is not the only figure celebrated at Christmas. Thanks to the movie horror movie Krampus released in 2015, a lot of the weird and wonderful people of the paranormal and general horror lovers became aware of a new figure. The movie shed a light on a figure from Austro-Bavarian folklore who is pretty much the demon of Christmas. Though his legend has been around and celebrated for years, this movie helped bring the figure into the mainstream, scaring and thrilling a whole new audience.
Throughout Austria and the Alpine region, there is a demonic figure that plays a very important part in the Christmas celebrations. He is reminiscent of the typical images you see of how people portray Satan. The origins of Krampus are debated with two popular theories. Most sources say that Krampus was a pagan creation who was said to be the son of Hel from Norse mythology who was known as the lord of death. Other historians say it goes as far back as the Wiccan deity of the Horned God of the Witches. The reason it is so difficult to trace (as with many pagan traditions) is that the druids of Europe didn’t write anything down. Over time, their places of worship and symbols and rites were taken over and moulded into Christian traditions. It is why you will find a lot of holidays you celebrate today have pagan roots.
The name Krampus is drawn from the word ‘Krampen’ which is German for Claw. Around the 11th century is when horned devils started to appear in medieval plays. This would have been used as a familiar symbol for the native people to fit into the narrative of Christianity slowly assimilating. Over time, the deity that Krampus originated from was corrupted into the evil demon-like figure portrayed today. Krampus was brought into Christian traditions as a sidekick to St Nicholas (who we refer to as Santa Claus). St Nick is good, and Krampus is his evil companion. St Nick would reward children with presents. Krampus would punish them.
The 5th of December is the night before the traditional Feast of St Nicholas which is celebrated on the 6th of December. The 5th is described as a night of debauchery where Krampus roams the streets and people dressed as devils and demons run wild. The mischief continues through to midnight. He often accompanies St Nick. In a nutshell, St Nicholas will reward the ‘good children’ with Candy and if you are on the naughty list, Krampus will punish you. According to the legends, Krampus visits homes and businesses if you are on the naughty list, and he will leave you a pile of sticks or go as far as kidnapping the child in his sack and taking them to hell.
Throughout Europe on Krampusnaucht, Krampus run parades are held throughout the cities on the 5th of December. During parades, the Krampus loves to chase people down and whack them with a stick.
Due to the popularity of Krampus rising over the last few years, a lot of towns and communities have had to tame down some of the celebrations so as not to scare the tourists away. During the 12th century, the Catholic Church tried to banish the celebrations due to the similarities to the devil. In 1934 it was squashed temporarily but eventually made its come back and is more popular today than ever. A lot of families overseas decorate their house all year with Krampus decorations as a way to warn their children to be good all year round. They will hang twig arrangements which are a smaller version of the sticks Krampus likes to beat people with as a reminder to be good. It certainly beats threatening them with a lump of coal in their stocking!
Will you be celebrating Krampusnaucht?
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