Krampus: Santa's evil sidekick

Here's a gallery of people dressed as Krampus, the horrific anti-Santa-Claus who is traditional in Alpine mythology. Sez Wikipedia: "According to legend, Krampus accompanies St. Nicholas during the Christmas season, warning and punishing bad children, in contrast to St. Nicholas, who gives gifts to good children."

Krampus: The Evil Companion to Santa (via Make)


  1. Just remember, the Krampus (or Gramppus as he is also spelled) accompanied Saint Nicholas, and the pictures of Saint Nick showed him as a thin, white-bearded guy with a bishop’s mitre.

    You can see these masks and costumes at the end of winter as well in some Swiss communities, as they are symbolically driven out, in the hopes that they will take the winter with them and let spring arrive.

  2. I have bad childhood memories of a Krampus chasing me and beating me with a wet cow tail in my hometown Salzburg, Austria. Ouch. Must have been in the beginning/middle of the 1980ies. They also have huge cow bells tied around their waist, and the sound alone scared me. But things are under control nowadays, with police present at the traditional “Krampus runs” and so on. Also the old masks are in fact fascinating, as well as the old legends and the different characters. Read more here

  3. :hipster: Yeah, I saw Krampus up in Maine before they even got signed. They were wicked awesome, but now they’ve sold out to Claus Records and they suck.

  4. Not just in Belgium; also in Netherland, which is where the American Santa Claus got his name from. Only Dutch Sinterklaas is not celebrated at Christmas, but on 5 December.

    I wonder when this Kramppus + St. Nicholas was celebrated in the Alps. Is it really Christmas? Or is it 5 December? I think the latter. I’ve always understood that it was Dutch Americans who displaced St. Nick from his own day to Christmas.

  5. You’re a couple of weeks late. The feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated on December 6 and the saint, along with his regional side-kicks (it’s an unnamed devil and angel in the Czech Republic), roams the streets on the eve before the feast.

    This is true for the Alpine countries, too. In the germanic part of Switzerland, it’s Knecht Ruprecht that accompanies St. Nicholas. Also at the beginning of December.

    So, please don’t equate the American Santa with the rich St. Nicholas traditions in the rest of the world. The US Santa is a cultural export that homogenizes native regional winter holiday celebrations – which IMO kind of sucks.

  6. Santa =/= Nikolaus

    “In the germanic part of Switzerland, it’s Knecht Ruprecht that accompanies St. Nicholas. Also at the beginning of December.”

    I’m from North-Rhine Westfalia (Germany) specifically the Ruhr-Area and here the “sidekick” of St. Nikolaus is called Knecht Ruprecht too. Nikolaus-Day is 6th December.

  7. Ok, so we’ve got some sort of good cop – bad cop thing going on for Christmas coercion? Sleep well, kiddies.

  8. As I was a child (1979) with eleven years in my Bavarian hometown we (children) meet before 7:00 pm at the place before our big church. The young people changed to the Krampus (or Habergoaß) at the sacristy and at 7:00 pm they where released and try to catch and hit us because we try to wind them up and sneer at them. It was very very rough, because the got a good stiff wicker or even a wooden stick and when they got very angry the hit with that stuff to the legs or arms.
    Sometimes they try to made a trap and ambush children e.g. in a alley that nobody can escape….

    For us children it was a big thrill and sometimes somebody get hurt (I remember that I heard from two broken rips, because one of this guys slammed somebody with something harder)….but it was one of the nights where we where allowed to stay outside until 9:30 to 10:00 pm.


  9. While it was never part of our Holiday tradition growing up, I have always thought The Krampus rocked. St. Nick having two assistants was neat: the sooty Black Pete, who carried the toy bag, and the monstrous Krampus, the scary Wild Thing that acted like an enforcer.

    There are some great vids out there of Krampus in action, and in it is adorable to watch little children who know that they have been good (hence, nothing to fear from The Krampus) walk straight up to these monsters to say hi in the midst of the growls, howling, and swinging of chains and broken branches.

  10. And I thought Krampus was the one who brought menstrual pain… Either that or universities with small classrooms. Maybe these are his day jobs, since he doesn’t have a lot to do for the rest of the year?

  11. I am from Bavaria where parts of these rites are still alive or re-made. Traditional masks were wood-carved, but nowadays airbrush-finished zombie heads are “in”, and the pagan background has made way for drinking opportunities. Just compare the two masks in this post:

    The first mask is traditional (in spite of the name), whereas the second is that modern zombie style.

  12. krampus night is on december 5th (at least in my part of austria) while st. nikolaus is on december 6th. (as previous posters mentioned before, american santa claus is a commercial creation, which may have borrowed some elements from our rich tradition).

    it’s quite rough. the young gang together and try to rough you up, children or adults. if they get you, you’re likely to hurt the next day. there’s always some blessed ones reported in the papers the next day. it makes it exciting for the kids though (not all are allowed outside).

    on the night of the 6th st. nikolaus makes it rounds and it sometimes accompanied by the krampus (especially on the countryside) whose job is to threaten the children a bit.

    a friend of mine was hired for that job once. every farmer along the way made him drink a schnaps (hard liquor). he ended up in the ditch at the end of the night (20 and counting …).

    in the mountain villages there are parades of the ‘perchten’ – which i believe is actually what the story picture shows.

  13. For me (Hungarian person, grew up behind the atheist iron curtain, where Christmas was officially celebrated in schools as Fenyőünnep (Christmas Tree Celebration)) the difference between Santa Claus (Télapó, coming on 24th of December) and Mikulás (Szent Miklós, coming on 6th of December) wasn’t clear ever. Neither their sidekicks (angels, Krampusz). But on 6th of December we usually (both good and bad children) got a virgács (willow switch) too, not only candies. Probably to remind us to the smaller, forgotten bad things we did.

    More details about this (probably only Czech, Slovakian, Polish and Hungarian fork) are available here: According to this, Krampus is a “sinister elf”. He was described to us as a small person covered in coal.

  14. In the countryside over here parents can hire these guys to come into their homes and terrify the shit out of their crying offspring, with St. Nicholas stepping in later to console the traumatized children. It´s nothing if not an effective indoctrination system for the ever charming catholic church.

  15. Those Krampus pics remind me of Tim Curry’s devil character from Legend. Beating bad children with a wet cow tail? I’d pay cash money to get to do that.

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