Krampus: The Devil of Christmas greeting cards

A hundred year ago, Santa Claus didn't bother with keeping track of bad children who deserved coal lumps in their stockings. He had a devilish pal named Krampus who took care of the kids on the naughty list. With his red skin, shaggy black coat of fur, obscene pointed tongue, cloven hooves, pointed tail, and sharp horns emanating from his forehead, Krampus carried a switch to beat young miscreants senseless, after which he'd toss them in his backpack and drag them to his uncomfortably warm subterranean lair.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, “Grüß Vom Krampus” (Greetings from Krampus) cards were popular in Europe. The evening of December 5th was Krampusnacht, when Krampus would descend upon villages to terrorize youngsters who wondered with horror whether their transgressions over the past year warranted a one way trip to hell in a hand basket.

By the mid-1930s the legend of the Krampus was on its way out. What remained of Krampus was sanitized and santa-ized (think of The Grinch, who undergoes a Fonzie-like metamorphosis from a misanthropic menace into a lover of humankind). But Krampus has been making a comeback. Check out this video of a Krampus attack in an Italian village, where drunk young men in costume are given free reign to beat the heck out of townspeople with long sticks.

What better to way to celebrate the return of the Krampus with this set of Krampus greeting cards from Last Gasp? With art selected from Monte Beauchamp's historical postcard book, Krampus: The Devil of Christmas, the set comes with 20 cards (two each of ten designs) in a metal tin. My daughter Jane was fascinated by the cards, and she had a great time sorting them in order of scariness.

Amazon pre-order: Krampus Greeting Cards: Gruss vom Krampus! (Available now directly from Last Gasp.)


  1. Here in MKE, due to our super-Germanic immigrant history, Krampus has always been around.  I’m actually about to mail my daughter her Nikolaus stocking to her in college.  Because St. Nick not filling your stocking means that Krampus is coming….  

    (This all happens on the evening of Dec. 5th…you should wake up to find the verdict in the form of the contents of your stocking on the morning of Dec.6.  The traditional MKE St. Nick stocking should have a tangerine/orange stuck in the toe, lots of nuts, a piece or two of good chocolate, a small toy/tchotzke and something useful like socks, underwear, mittens, hat or a new scarf.)

    1. I always wondered why my mom gave us socks, chocolate, pens and an orange.  Her mom was German.

      My grandpa on my dad’s side told me that his Polish father would go over to the neighbor’s house on Christmas with a big bowl full of walnuts.  He would knock on the door, and when they opened he would pitch the walnuts out onto the floor.  The kids would run around collecting them, like an Easter egg hunt.  Just Imagine some jovial Polish guy randomly throwing a bunch of nuts in your house and try not to smile.

      1. When I were a lad in Germany back in the 70s, we’d put our boots by our bedroom doors on the evening of the 5th, and on the 6th of December they we magically filled with nuts, clementines and chocolate.  Always was the proper start to teh advent season for me.

        Bit of a shame that we all seem to be moving towards the saccharine “coca-cola” Santa these days, but that’s the price of cultural globalisation.

        Thanks for the reminder to get the boots out in a few days time though!

        P.S. the  “lump of coal” tradition was still very much talked about in those days,.

        P.P.S.  In Catalunia, one of the big festivals is three kings day (6th of January). All the bakeries have “lumps of coal” – black coloured meringue.

        1. My Prussian-Irish family in the STL area does the same thing with the boots/shoes.  We also celebrated May Day in the early 70s with the pole dance and cones of goodies.

  2. Anyone remember the Robert Sheckley story about the anit-Santa named Grishnahk? I wish I could remember the title.

  3. When I was a child in late 80s early 90s Switzerland, the Krampus was still quite extant. Though we called him Schmutzli. (filthy one) He would turn up with Samichlaus (Santa Claus) on December 6, and they’d do a kind of good-cop-bad-cop thing where the good kids got sweets from Samichlaus and the bad ones were carried off by Schmutzli in his bag.

  4. It says the publication date is November 15, 2012, and yet it’s still only available for pre-order. Guess it’s delayed. Hope I get them before Festivus.

  5. A new tradition of Krampus Night is getting started this Saturday in Bloomington, IN. Such a neat new festival! I can’t wait to see what it turns into in the next few years!

  6. Am I the only one concerned by “drunk young men in costume are given free reign to beat the heck out of townspeople with long sticks.”?

    1. The Krampus knows who’s been bad or good.  Its jaundiced eyes can see the stain on your soul.  If you are concerned it’s only because you know you’ve been naughty this year.

  7. I saw a Krampus stocking in a store yesterday. I almost bought it, but I had no idea what or who Krampus was. Now I know.

  8. I wish I had small children so I could introduce them to the Krampus this season.  They would be so good!  Even a niece or a nephew would suffice.

  9. In Belgium and the Netherlands a guy called Sinterklaas, who is the former Bishop of Turkey, comes along on December 5 with a group of black men — all of them called Zwarte Piet (black Pete) — to leave gifts in the shoes of good children. The bad children get beaten with sticks, stuffed into sacks, and taken to Spain, where Sinterklaas lives. David Sedaris has a story about it from a trip he took to Amsterdam and he gets the story pretty much right, though he’s much funnier than I am. It’s probably on YouTube. Everything is.

  10. I’ve found the most un-krampiest Krampus.

  11. BTW: It’s “Gruß vom Krampus”, not “Grüß”. Old german/european Handwriting featured a line above the miniscule “u” which made it look like an “ü”, but actually that was just to make it distinguishable from the small “n”, which back then was written like… well… the “u”… ;)

  12. I can’t be the only one who looked at that Krampus and thought of The Tomb of Horrors…

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