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Meet Krampus, Santa Claus’ Disturbing Sidekick

Santa Claus, Krampus

Christmas isn’t simple. If you think you’ve got a handle on its melange of Christian, pagan, and national traditions, here’s one more wrinkle. In Austria and Hungary, and some parts of Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Northern Italy, a bleak myth describes what happens during the Christmas season to children who have misbehaved during the past year. According to legend, unruly kids are paid a visit by Krampus. Unlike St.

Nicholas, who brings gifts and treats, Krampus punishes and warns kids who need to straighten up.

The word Krampus derives from the Old High German word Krampen, which means “claw.” Other European traditions involve other unpleasant or grotesque sidekicks to Santa Claus, including Black Peter, Servant Rupert, and a devil and an angel. The ghastly depictions of this mythical creature usually feature a hairy man-beast with sharp horns and an even-sharper tongue that hangs wickedly from his mouth. He often is carrying rusty chains and a handful of birches for whipping. He has a sadistic smile. Some images of Krampus show him hauling away mischievous children in a basket on his back.

Traditionally, in early December young men would dress up as the demonic Krampus and take to the streets, terrifying children. Now, modern Krampus costumes usually include sheep’s skin, horns, and wooden masks called Larve.

For such a ubiquitous occasion, Christmas still contains a multitude of obscure facts and surprises. One of the most provocative Christmas words is “Xmas.” Learn the sacred and ancient meaning of the X, and follow the heated discussion the topic continues to generate.

52 Comments

  1. Tralfamador75 -  December 26, 2013 - 11:30 am

    But just a supplement:
    Krampus has nothing to do with Christmas. He is Santa Claus’ “partner”. (By the way Santa Claus = Mikulás /from the slovakian name of Nicholas/).
    Mikulás puts some gift to the children at the dawn december 6 (Miklós=Nicholas name’s day) to the children’s boots. And there is a practice on this day: in the kindergarten and in the elementary schools a person dresses up as Mikulás and visits the classrooms and give some little candy to the kids. An other person (or maybe 2) dresses up as Krampus with sticks (rods) in his hands. Mikulás says he knows everything about them and they were good but some of them maked bad things and be good and such meanwhile the Krampus looks scary and sometimes beats the desktop with the sticks. His role is to chasten the kids. (Krampus actually is a devil)
    But again, (at least) in Hungary these are on 6th of december.
    The Christmas gifts are given from Jesus (for the little kids often “Jézuska” which means “the little Jesus”, the little boy), he puts those below the christmas tree at the dawn december 25.

    Reply
  2. Britney -  December 23, 2013 - 9:07 pm

    You learn something new everyday

    Reply
    • Lance -  December 21, 2014 - 8:24 am

      ONLY IF YOU WANT TO. .

      Reply
  3. benny -  December 23, 2013 - 10:07 am

    Yes… we had “zwarte pete” also in Holland…

    Reply
  4. John Egbert -  December 23, 2013 - 8:34 am

    suddenly, i’m scared of christmas.

    Reply
  5. Wolf -  December 19, 2013 - 7:46 am

    (When did gifts become an essential part of the Christmas holiday? Learn more about Santa and his sidekicks here.)

    Gifts are not due to Santa Claus, pagan traditions, or anything else secular. Gifts are given at Christmas because of the great gifts the Three Wise Men gave to The Savior so many centuries ago, along with The Greatest Gift given to mankind by God Himself – Jesus the Emmanuel. Nothing more, nothing less. Who WOULD want anything more or less than that, anyway? I know I wouldn’t.

    Reply
  6. Adrian Santiago -  December 16, 2013 - 2:13 pm

    I saw this on family guy last night!!!!

    Reply
  7. weeeeeeeeeeeeee -  December 16, 2013 - 12:52 pm

    SATAN! ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

    Reply
  8. Jay-Z -  December 16, 2013 - 6:20 am

    This was on Grimm

    Reply
  9. emily -  December 15, 2013 - 12:54 pm

    I don’t think I like Santa Claus anymore. And I like your name, Jeanna.

    Reply
  10. emily -  December 15, 2013 - 12:16 pm

    Their totally TWINS!

    Reply
  11. Deathblow -  December 15, 2013 - 11:05 am

    Santa with the letters mixed up is SATAN!

    Reply
  12. wolf tamer and tree puncher -  December 15, 2013 - 7:42 am

    @Jeanna:
    Thank you very much. That’s basically what I was going to say, but now I don’t have to say it. You said that better than I could.

    Does anyone here know how to breed horses in Minecraft? And do any of you play WolfQuest?

    Reply
  13. Jeanna -  December 15, 2011 - 11:38 am

    @mark V- In case you weren’t paying attention, he said “English and their American descendents,” which implies that Americans descended from the English.
    @Saf- I like how well-worded your description of Satan was. I think you could actually say that Krampus, the boogeyman, and all things that go bump in the night are simplified (perhaps over-simplified?) versions of him when we don’t want to scare our (well, your) kids that much… yet. There’s a lot in this world that scares me, mostly man-made. But really, it all goes back to that “semi-deific manifestation of absolute evil” that you were talking about.
    @PreciousMetal- the “season of joy and love” begins when we all love, and strive to bring joy.

    Reply
  14. mad hater -  December 5, 2011 - 9:27 am

    he is not REAL nor is santa clause

    Reply
  15. mad hater -  December 5, 2011 - 9:24 am

    to lilliana i’m new to:(

    Reply
  16. PreciousMetal -  December 30, 2010 - 3:06 am

    OMG, how perfectly barbaric! What happened to the season of love and joy?!

    Reply
  17. badd0g -  December 29, 2010 - 5:25 pm

    @Saf LOL! Nice way to describe how “god-fearing” folk live!

    Reply
  18. Lilliana -  December 27, 2010 - 5:05 pm

    soory if I seem dumb because I didn’t know that. I’m new. :0

    Reply
  19. Lilliana -  December 27, 2010 - 5:04 pm

    cool! if you make a face with keys, then it makes it into a smiley con! :)

    Reply
  20. Lilliana -  December 27, 2010 - 5:02 pm

    what a mean creature! whoever created it must have been a maniac. poor kids. :(

    Reply
  21. N -  December 26, 2010 - 11:33 am

    @ Saf good one
    @Alan Turner you must not be getting it. Shame on Saf? Where’d you get this idyllic image of Americans? Ha I Wish I was told a wobbly demon was going to carry me away in a basket. Instead, I’m spending hundreds of dollars in therapy to deal with a residual guilt complex from the upbringing of Christian Love. Stop being a dumb-dumb. Or you might get dragged to hell!

    Reply
  22. Curly -  December 21, 2010 - 3:58 am

    Rather than scare our children with fictitious terrors, we should simply tell them all about the real world.

    @Zzzz’z:

    That is generally correct, but sometimes, in older names, an apostrophe alone would suffice. So the staff of Moses would be Moses’ staff. (Personally, I’ve never liked that rule, because I am never sure how to determine what is considered an older name.) I believe that Santa Claus falls into this category.

    Reply
  23. KLB -  December 20, 2010 - 11:38 pm

    @ Peter O’Connor on December 20, 2010 at 9:10 am

    I just got some weird looks in my office for lauging at your comment. but that certaintly would scare me, even now!!!

    Reply
  24. ag -  December 20, 2010 - 5:24 pm

    comments are not as good as the x article though hehe: lets keep it burning!! where are the fire startes>=)

    Reply
  25. man -  December 20, 2010 - 3:37 pm

    hmmmmm

    Reply
  26. angel_of_knowledge -  December 20, 2010 - 2:44 pm

    that’s horribly awesome.

    Reply
  27. paula -  December 20, 2010 - 2:14 pm

    Cyberquill please tell me you didn’t go around scaring little children when you lived in Austria…

    Reply
  28. DG -  December 20, 2010 - 1:25 pm

    Trois mots:

    Le Père Fouettard.

    Reply
  29. Andrea -  December 20, 2010 - 12:56 pm

    In Iceland there is a myth about a troll named Grýla and if you misbehave she and her husband will take you away in a sack and eat you

    Reply
  30. Alan Turner -  December 20, 2010 - 12:07 pm

    The world is cruel enough without parents destroying the children’s peace of mind. God means us all to be happy and not scared out of our wits as Christmas approaches. Shame on you Saf.

    Reply
  31. mark V -  December 20, 2010 - 11:25 am

    @saf,
    I assume he is, because he also suggested England descended from America

    Reply
  32. Who'da'thunk -  December 20, 2010 - 10:27 am

    Native Americans on the West Coast have a “Basket Woman” that carries away bad, unruly children. It’s thought that some of the Sasquatch related tales and stories are derivations of this child threat.

    Reply
  33. Saf -  December 20, 2010 - 10:24 am

    @Alan Turner

    I hope you’re joking. We tell our kids that they’re being watched and preyed on at all times during their entire life by a semi-deific manifestation of absolute evil whose sole purpose in existence is to seditiously destroy their faith and corrupt their souls, and then drag them into a fiery underworld to torture them for eternity.

    ~Saf

    Reply
  34. KRAMPUS TREE | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  December 20, 2010 - 9:55 am

    [...] that the truth? — A fella called Servant Rupert? — Black Peter with a cotton tale and then there’s the story of Ruth. — Oh [...]

    Reply
  35. Zzzz'z -  December 20, 2010 - 9:13 am

    Isn’t it Santa Claus’s? In the grammar books that I own, it is taught to only drop the possessive “s” when used on a plural noun ending with s not names or singular nouns that end with s. Do I need to invest in some new Grammar books, or is it okay both ways?

    Reply
  36. Peter O'Connor -  December 20, 2010 - 9:10 am

    I can remember during the ’80′s parents would warn unruly children the “Margaret Thatcher will come and get you!” It seemed to work well.

    Reply
  37. mark V -  December 20, 2010 - 9:10 am

    We need to reenforce fables like this.
    nothing makes a kid sit up straight in class like a legitimate fear of gypsies turning them into applesoup

    Reply
  38. Nathan Hunter -  December 20, 2010 - 7:48 am

    Where have you been all my life. I’m worshipping you.

    Reply
  39. Marc -  December 20, 2010 - 7:41 am

    Curious to know if Krampus is the same derivation as Grampus (an orca)

    Reply
  40. #1 Skillet fan -  December 20, 2010 - 7:16 am

    In Austria and Hungary, and some parts of Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Northern Italy, a bleak myth describes what happens during the Christmas season to children who have misbehaved during the past year.

    Cool I didn’t know that. My great-grandmother was from Croatia, so I think that is really interesting

    Reply
  41. nollan -  December 20, 2010 - 6:52 am

    man thats scary…..

    Reply
  42. Pine Tree Girl -  December 20, 2010 - 5:43 am

    Terrifying. It would be nice to warn all the kids down the street about Krampus. Huh? what’s this? my computer spell check is telling me Krampus is not a word…even when I paste it!

    Reply
  43. Alan Turner -  December 20, 2010 - 3:10 am

    What kind of people would frighten their children with such things at the, supposedly happiest time of the year?
    I am sure that the English and their American descendants would not do such a cruel thing.

    Reply
  44. KLB -  December 20, 2010 - 12:38 am

    I’ve never heard of this. The worst story we get in England is; if you are not a good boy or girl you won’t get any presents just some coal in your stocking.

    Perhaps if we told children today that the sock would then be used as a bludgeoning weapon by an evil anti-santa they might listen and be quite in the car on the way to the shopping centre. But I doubt it.

    I love Christmas. Happy holidays whatever denomination you are.

    Reply
  45. ♥r a n n e y♥ -  December 19, 2010 - 11:30 pm

    uhmm..nice..don’t even know about it…maybe I should get scared now…
    >=)

    Reply
  46. SJS -  December 19, 2010 - 9:17 pm

    Middle Easterners have a similar mythical creature called Basket Man, who, like Krampus, carries away unruly children in a basket. Occasionally a parent will threaten to invite Basket Man over if the child doesn’t behave.

    Reply
  47. Amelia W.S. -  December 19, 2010 - 9:11 pm

    Don’t forget that children in Germany are also terrified by Krampus!

    Reply
  48. Cyberquill -  December 19, 2010 - 8:27 pm

    Speaking of Austria, “melange” is a very popular type of coffee in Vienna, sort of like a latte. This concludes the unsolicited information segment for today.

    Reply

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