Krampus is the opposite of Santa Claus and is often referred to as the Christmas Demon / Chrismas Devil. Early forms of Krampus are believed to predate Christianity and seem to have originated in Austria and the southern German state of Bavaria as Germanic paganism. Some think that Krampus was used in early Pagan rituals, and when Christianity spread, the early version of Krampus was reinvented and repurposed as these beliefs were thought of as Satanic.
What does Krampus Look Like?
Krampus is seen as a "half-goat, half-demon" large beast figure who punishes children during Christmas, who have misbehaved. Krampus has dark hair covering its body with massive gnarled goat-like horns on its head. Other variations on his appearance include chains that are said to bind the beast to the Christian definition of the Devil. This look is the complete opposite of what Saint Nicholas looks like in his Bishop-like appearance, therefore, giving him his Satanic, demonic nature.
Krampus Punishes Bad Children
Krampus assumed the opposite role of Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus) not to reward children that were good but to punish those children who were bad. Krampus was said to reverse the "spare the rod, spoil the child" tradition and would whip children with ruten (German word used to describe a pole or bundle of sticks). Less severe punishments include coal and bundles of birch branches.
Krampus coming to visit you is far worse than the traditional "Elf on the Shelf" or "stocking full of coal" punishments.
Krampus mythos states that Krampus comes to visit bad children on Krampus night, Krampusnacht, which is December 5, the night before Saint Nicholas is believed to start visiting children, December 6 in some parts of Europe.
Maurice Bruce published in 1958:
There seems to be little doubt as to his true identity for, in no other form is the full regalia of the Horned God of the Witches so well preserved. The birch - apart from its phallic significance - may have a connection with the initiation rites of certain witch-covens; rites which entailed binding and scourging as a form of mock-death. The chains could have been introduced in a Christian attempt to "bind the Devil" but again they could be a remnant of pagan initiation rites.
Anthropologist John J. Honigmann wrote in 1975 (In Irdning, a small town in Styria):
The Saint Nicholas festival we are describing incorporates cultural elements widely distributed in Europe, in some cases going back to pre-Christian times. Nicholas himself became popular in Germany around the eleventh century. The feast dedicated to this patron of children is only one winter occasion in which children are the objects of special attention, others being Martinmas, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, and New Year"s Day. Masked devils acting boisterously and making nuisances of themselves are known in Germany since at least the sixteenth century while animal masked devils combining dreadful-comic (schauriglustig) antics appeared in Medieval church plays. A large literature, much of it by European folklorists, bears on these subjects. ... Austrians in the community we studied are quite aware of "heathen" elements being blended with Christian elements in the Saint Nicholas customs and in other traditional winter ceremonies. They believe Krampus derives from a pagan supernatural who was assimilated to the Christian devil.
Krampus Parades and Traditions
In traditional Krampus featured parades such as the Krampuslauf (English: Krampus run), young men in mostly Alpine towns will dress up as Krampus. At this time, Krampus is featured on holiday greeting cards called Krampuskarten.
Krampus (2015) (Directed by Michael Dougherty via Legendary Films)
The legend of Krampus is here to stay, and with Krampus movies serving to refresh the ideas in the minds of a younger generation, Krampus is far from forgotten.
For Christmas families celebrating the holidays, this scary being is not to be taken lightly.
FYI: My favorite 2015 Krampus film is Michael Dougherty"s Krampus (2015).