The History of Krampus

by Erich Martin

Dec 5, 2018

© Jevtic | Dreamstime

Trends / History

The story of Krampus is one most are familiar with by now. Originating in central and eastern Europe, Krampus is often pictured as a grotesque version of Santa Claus. Fur, cloven feet and wild horns make the character an intimidating sight. Add in the fact Krampus runs around with a ruten to punish and steal naughty children, and we have the stuff of nightmares.


Krampus’s most active night occurs on Krampusnacht, the night of Dec. 5, sometimes accompanied by a European depiction of St. Nicholas himself. Legends say Nicholas dotes upon good children, while Krampus dispenses coal and punishes the wicked boys and girls in the neighborhood.


Krampus’s origins can be traced back to pre-Christian traditions, and his appearance is pulled heavily from the Horned God of the Witches. In addition, Krampus was briefly banned in Austria in 1923. Currently, Krampus festivals and celebrations are popular in Europe as well as the United States. Krampus has also become ingrained into popular culture through the 2015 horror, comedy Christmas film, Krampus.


Krampus’s popular culture clout extends well into the past, however. In the 1800s, Europeans exchanged greeting cards with Krampus on them.


Different regions, countries, cities and towns will invariably have different depictions of the devil. For instance, in smaller towns, it is said Krampus travels alone, or with other, monstrous companions. Some Krampuses wear sacks and chains, while others are relatively free.


Krampus is the perfect excuse to introduce a little horror to the Christmas season. Consider the monster’s history and relevance in popular culture, and we have a Christmas monster to rival Santa.

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