This blog post was updated on July 9, 2021.
Oh sure, no child wants to make Santa’s Naughty List. But the dude whose bad side your little ones definitely should keep clear of this festive season ain’t Saint Nick. It’s Krampus (aka the anti-Santa and the Christmas devil) – a beastly horned and furry fellow from tales of Alpine and Central European folklore who punishes children who misbehaved during Christmastime. In some traditions, Krampus is Saint Nicholas’ companion, with Nicholas rewarding good little boys and girls with toys while Krampus doles out coal to the bad ones. Other stories tell of Krampus working on his one or in a group with other demon types to find bad children, stuff them in a sack and carry them away never to be seen again.
These days though, tales of Krampus aren’t so much used to keep kids in line as they are to fuel an excuse for grownups to play dress up and party in the streets. Big Krampus events take place across North America (with new Krampuslauf traditions in Honolulu, Hawaii) and Europe with a “run” on the Christmas Market in Salzberg, Austria among the most popular of the many Alpine Krampus “celebrations”. Another big Austrian event – and probably the eeriest and most heavily attended – happens on December 5th in Klagenfurt
Most Krampus-related doings happen on the 5th of December, known as Krampusnacht, or on the 6th, which is the feast day of Saint Nicholas.
So, how is this supposed to be fun? Well, maybe with all the pressure folks feel this time of year (traffic’s a little worse, shopping can be a nightmare) maybe it’s good to let off some pagan steam – especially before settling in for a few days cooped up with the family. And perhaps considering how commercialized Christmas has become, it’s a relief to ‘harken back’ to a simpler time. Or maybe Halloween isn’t enough and one more night of tricks and treats is required to get all the goofiness out of the system before embarking upon another winter and a new year.
Who knows? But if Krampus sounds like your kind of guy – or you’d like to pretend to be him for a night – it might be worth seeing what’s on in your local area or to start making plans for a European Krampus vacation.