Since the holiday season is now officially upon us, we decided to take a look into the legend of Krampus, Santa’s best little helper. What? Didn’t know that the goat demon so popular with horror fiction and media today is BFFs with the red-nosed, red-labeled soda-swilling fat man who brought you your first electric guitar? Guess you’re in need for a history lesson.
While Krampus isn’t Norse (unlike some of the other mythological creatures that we like to write about), he’s still metal as fuck. You see, in Austria and Bavaria, a region which now consists of the most southern part of Germany, plus Hungary and a little bit of Northern Italy, jolly old St. Nick wasn’t responsible for the bad kids. He just got the good ones.
It was Krampus who got to take care of the Naughty List.
The horny old goat carries with him chains and a sack or cage. The chains are reportedly to show that the Devil is bound to Christianity, while the sack or cage is used expressly for hauling bad kids away. These kids were typically drowned, eaten, or brought straight to Hell if their sins were great enough. Just in time for the holidays!
Like many Christmas-related symbols and traditions, Krampus probably comes from something in Europe’s pagan past. The chains, for example, are thought to have been a part of a pagan initiation ritual. The birch sticks he carries, as well, are thought to represent the phallus. In some regions of the world, good kids are given golden birch sticks to represent their good deeds, while bad kids were given silver birch sticks to represent their shitty behavior. Kids with silver sticks don’t get gifts when Santa comes around.
There is also a run called Krampuslauf where drunken participants dress as everyone’s favorite goat and run through their town, with the intention of chasing out the old winter ghosts. This tradition goes back centuries, probably long before Krampus became besties with Santa.
In the 1930s, fascism came to Austria, and Krampus celebrations were cut short. He was viewed as evil and pagan, probably due to the fact that he’s freaking scary as shit. Or maybe due to the fact that most fascists got silver sticks when they were kids. Who knows?
But never fear! As the century came to a close and the current one began, Krampus has seen a resurgence in popularity– and not just with people in Bavaria and Austria. Indeed, with the age of the Internet, he’s spreading his child-scaring ways all around the globe.
Krampus Night, or Krampusnacht, is December 5th, the night before St. Nicholas’ day, which means it’s coming up soon. If you know of any naughty children who need a scare, now’s the time to prepare. Simply leave an offering of schnapps. If there’s a naughty child in your home, expect him to leave a gift of coal or birch branches as a threat to get them to shape up for St. Nick.