Everyone knows about Santa Claus and how he gives good boys and girls toys but what happens to the naughty children? That responsibility falls to Krampus, Santa’s evil counterpart.
Half goat and half demon, Krampus punishes the naughty children of the world around Christmastime, according to old European legends. Krampus is said to beat bad children with sticks and branches, but some myths have him eating them or taking them to hell. As much as the Catholic church tried to ban him, he became associated with Christmas and Santa Claus.
There are various festivities surrounding Krampus, such as the Krampus Run, where people dress as the creature and parade through the streets. This event usually involves alcohol. These events became increasingly popular in the late 20th century as an effort to preserve cultural heritage in Germany and Austria.
Krampus is said to be the son of Hel from Norse mythology. Other iterations of Krampus include Belsnickle and Knecht Ruprecht in some Germanic regions, and Hans Trapp and Pere Fouettard in France.
Krampus is thought to be the balance to Santa Claus, punishing those on his ‘naughty list’ in response to the ‘nice list.’ During WWII, many found Krampus to be the creation of Social Democrats.
Krampus’s popularity died down for a while, but now many people are once again bringing him back to the limelight. Part of this has to do with the general mood that often surrounds the holidays. That, a ‘bah humbug’ sort of mood, in which many do not want to partake in the typical celebrations.
Some have even gone as far as creating greeting cards featuring Krampus, although the messages on them are far from cheerful. Some depict Krampus beating children while others depict women beating men or having Krampus defeated by a woman. Some even depict a woman as Krampus.
In the United States, celebrations like the Krampus Run are becoming more popular, as well as Krampus himself. Pop culture has brought him to relevance through movies and TV shows as well.
Much like Santa, there is Krampus merchandise in Austria and several complain that Krampus is already being too commercialized and losing the fear that made him special.