Meet Krampus, the Christmas Demon with Horns and Chains

Alex Poteet

Christmas is creeping up on us once more, dear readers. ‘Christmas’ is a word that inevitably elicits visions of sugarplums and jovial old elves with a strange penchant for delivering goodies to children. Despite this sweet image people have of the seasonal customs, there is a macabre side to the joyous holiday celebration.

Krampus

One of the most popular Yuletide tales concerns a miser haunted by eerie ghosts. Everyone is familiar with Santa Claus, the saintly figure who represents the lighter side of the holiday. However, you may not be so acquainted with his devilish companion, Krampus.
The legend of Krampus derives from a centuries-old Christmas tradition in Germany, where yuletide celebrations begin in early December. Krampus was created as a sinister counterpart to the kindly St. Nicholas, who rewarded children with sweets and toys.
Bearing horns, vampire-like fangs, and an all-around grotesque appearance, the so-called ‘Christmas Devil’ travels the land with Santa and, according to lore, punishes naughty children while Santa rewards the good. Krampus is traditionally armed with chains and a bundle of birch branches to swat the bottoms of children on the ‘bad list’. In the case of particularly nasty children, Krampus hauls them straight to his lair in hell. Charming, eh?
The fiendish holiday icon supposedly appears on the eve of Dec. 6, known as Krampusnacht or Krampus Night. The following morning children check shoes they left out to see if they have received presents or a rod for their parents to discipline them with.
A popular modern take on the tradition is known as Krampuslauf. This practice involves intoxicated revelers who dress as devils and participate in a ‘Krampus Fun-Run’, so to speak. Unassuming people are chased by these ‘devils’ during these events. This tradition is primarily observed in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

Krampus

For years, Krampus was suppressed by the Catholic Church, which forbade any Krampus-related celebrations. During World War II, European fascists found Krampus appalling because he was considered a creation of the Social Democrats. Poor Krampus has also been under attack by those who don’t find a wrathful demon appropriate for children.
As of late, Krampus has had a cultural resurgence. The Christmas Boogeyman has become an anti-Santa of sorts for those who embrace the more ghastly things in life. Stockings, ornaments and toys have been made in his gloriously gargoyle-like image. Krampus-themed events have been held in many locations in recent years. It appears that a certain elf with a weight problem may have some competition.
By Alex Poteet

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article