Who is Krampus: The truth about this German Christmas folklore
The holiday season is typically associated with joy, love, and generosity. However, amidst the merriment, a chilling figure from folklore lurks in the shadows, ready to unleash its wrath on misbehaving children. We're talking about Krampus, the horned companion of Saint Nicholas, who has become a fascinating and eerie character deeply rooted in Central European folklore. Join us as we delve into the history of Krampus, tracing its origins, symbolism, and cultural significance throughout the ages.
The past few years I have been more and more intrigued by the Legend of Krampus and how such an ugly, nasty and scary beast is such a prominent part of Christmas tradition in the Alpine region. When I talk about Krampus, people often ask, "Isn't he the German Christmas Devil?" or "Is it Santa's evil twin?" .... mmm... not quite.
Origins and Mythology
Krampus originated in pre-Christian Alpine traditions, primarily in the regions of Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic. The name "Krampus" is derived from the German word "krampen," meaning "claw." Often depicted as a demonic creature, Krampus is sometimes said to be the son of Hel, the Norse goddess of the underworld. Some sources say that the krampus tradition was part of pagan rituals related to the winter solstice.
The folklore surrounding Krampus varies from region to region, but common elements persist. He is typically described as a fearsome creature with long horns, a hairy body, cloven hooves, and a long, pointed tongue. His most distinguishing feature is a bundle of birch branches or a whip that he uses to punish misbehaving children.
Krampusnacht and the Feast of Saint Nicholas
Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night, takes place on the evening of December 5th, the eve of the Feast of Saint Nicholas. While Saint Nicholas rewards well-behaved children with gifts and treats, Krampus roams the streets to frighten and punish those who have been naughty.
During Krampusnacht, revelers dress in intricate, terrifying Krampus costumes and parade through the streets, often accompanied by the ringing of bells and the cracking of whips. This tradition serves as a reminder to children to behave throughout the year and to appreciate the rewards of good behavior during the holiday season.
Symbolism and Cultural Significance
Krampus embodies the duality of human nature—both good and evil. While Saint Nicholas represents benevolence, Krampus represents punishment and the consequences of misbehavior. The figure of Krampus serves as a cautionary tale, reminding children (and adults) to make virtuous choices and not succumb to mischief.
Over the centuries, Krampus has become an enduring and beloved symbol of the holiday season in Central European culture. The legend has gained popularity beyond its traditional borders, capturing the imagination of people around the world. In recent years, Krampus-themed events, parades, and festivals have emerged, attracting both locals and curious travelers seeking an alternative celebration.
Krampus in Modern Culture
In contemporary times, Krampus is indeed making a comeback!! Books, movies, and artworks have depicted this mischievous creature, weaving its way into modern folklore. The 2015 horror-comedy film "Krampus" brought the legend to the big screen, further fueling the fascination surrounding the character, (it was... interesting... click here to read my full review) and there are Krampuslaufs and other Krampus themed parties popping up left and right!
Much to my surprise... there are quite a few Krampus events, markets, Laufs and more happening all over the country! What is a Krampuslauf you ask? Check out this post → The Krampuslauf: A Twisted Twist on Cheery Holiday Parade
Here is a list of all the events that we found. (PLEASE feel free to add more in the comments.)
Krampus' Karnage in Absecon, NJ
2nd Annual Krampus Bazaar in Fieldsboro, NJ
Krampusnacht DC in Washington DC
Krampus Ball in Worcester, MA
Parade of Spirits, Liberty Lands in Philadelphia, PA
Krampusfest in Shillington, PA
2nd Annual Krampus Night - New York, NY
RVA Krampusnacht in Richmond, VA
Merry Maker Winter Market in Winchester, VA
Krampusfest Cleveland in Cleveland, OH
Krampus Night also in Cleveland, OH
Germania Society Christkindlmarkt in Cincinnati, OH
Krampus Rampage & Bazaar in Bloomington, IN
Krampus Fest at Martyrs in Chicago, IL
Krampus Mart: Alternative Handmade Market in Chicago, IL
Barrel-Aged Krampus Cookies Bottle Release in Chicago IL
Krampus Creepy Curiosities & Oddities Market in Lombard, IL
KRAMPUS NIGHT in Detroit, MI
KrampusNacht Ball in Minneapolis, MN
Milwaukee Krampusnacht Workshop: Krampus Choreography in Glendale, WI Milwaukee Krampusnacht in Glendale, WI
5th Annual Krampus Pub Crawl in Rapid City, SD
Krampus Artisan Emporium in Barco, NC
Krampus Festival in Historic Camden, SC
International Krampus Festival in Camden, SC
Krampus Pub Krawl in Savannah, GA
Krampus NOLAuf in New Orleans, LA
Krampus Art show in San Antonio, TX
Dallas Krampus Walk in Dallas, TX
Burton Ball & Krampus Parade in San Antonio, TX
Krampus, the fearsome companion of Saint Nicholas, has left an indelible mark on Central European folklore. With its dark and cautionary nature, the legend of Krampus has endured for centuries, serving as a reminder to embrace kindness, virtue, and goodwill during the holiday season. As Krampusnacht approaches each year, let us remember the power of both rewards and consequences, inspiring us to be our best selves and spread joy to those around us.
If you are interested in going to these events, but don't have your full Krampus costume in ordnung just yet, not a problem... I've got a whole line up of fun items that you could wear these events... or any other day for that matter. The Krampus Shop by Rare Dirndl offers items like T-shirts and the best selling Krampus Scarf and the adorable Krampus book, "Krampus Meets His Match"