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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.

51 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.

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