Some background on Krampus:
Krampus, whose name is derived from the German word krampen, meaning claw, is said to be the son of Hel in Norse mythology. The legendary beast also shares characteristics with other scary, demonic creatures in Greek mythology, including satyrs and fauns. The legend is part of a centuries-old Christmas tradition in Germany, where Christmas celebrations begin in early December. Krampus was created as a counterpart to kindly St. Nicholas, who rewarded children with sweets. Krampus, in contrast, would swat “wicked” children and take them away to his lair.
Last December, Collectors Weekly talked to Monte Beauchamp, who published a book of early 1900s Krampus postcards, about the “Christmas devil”:
Collectors Weekly: Why was Krampus so scary?
Beauchamp: He’s like the bogeyman and was created by adults to scare the bejeezus out of wayward children. Every country seems to have their own bogeyman. On December 6, which is St. Nikolaus Day, obedient children would hop out of bed and rush to the empty shoe they’d placed outside the night before to retrieve the small gifts or treats that St. Nikolaus had left for them. In the shoes of disobedient children awaited switches, with which their parents would spank them. Those that had been especially bad were paid a visit by Krampus, who oftentimes would place them in the wooden basket strapped across his back and cart them off to the countryside and terrorize them until they promised to be good.
Collectors Weekly: Is Krampus the devil?
Beauchamp: Though Krampus is perceived as a devil and is referred to as one, he’s mainly a composite of man and beast; he has fur all over his body, and what devil has a tongue like that? He’s also a good-natured character; his only desire is to persuade unruly children to turn from their wicked ways. …
Collectors Weekly: What date does Krampusnacht take place? How do you celebrate?
Beauchamp: On the Eve of St. Nikolaus, which is December 5, in Salzburg, Austria there’s a winter festival known as Krampuslauf—“The Running of the Krampus,” in which young men clad in Krampus costumes are herded into town by a person attired as St. Nikolaus. He then greets the crowd and unleashes the herd of Krampuses, who rattle chains, clang cowbells, brandish birch switches, and terrify the children.
Previous Dish on Krampus here.
(Photo: Members of the Haiminger Krampusgruppe dressed as the Krampus creature parade in the town square during their annual Krampus night in Tyrol on December 1, 2013 in Haiming, Austria. Krampus is a demon-like creature represented by a fearsome, hand-carved wooden mask with animal horns, a suit made from sheep or goat skin, and large cow bells attached to the waist that the wearer rings by running or shaking his hips up and down. Krampus has been a part of Central European, alpine folklore going back at least a millennium and since the 17th-century Krampus traditionally accompanies St. Nicholas and angels on the evening of December 5th to visit households to reward children that have been good while reprimanding those who have not. However, in the last few decades, Tyrol in particular has seen the founding of numerous village Krampus associations with up to 100 members each who parade without St. Nicholas at Krampus events throughout November and early December. By Sean Gallup/Getty Images)