On Christmas Eve, the legend goes, Santa Claus travels the globe leaving presents for good little boys and girls, under their Christmas trees and in their ornamental fireplace-hung stockings. Bad children, continues the tradition, do not receive gifts; instead, they get lumps of coal in their stockings. After all, Santa knows all — who’s naughty, who’s nice — and can act accordingly. But it’s a big job, even with an army of North Pole elves at one’s disposal, so in the Alpine regions of central Europe, he enlists help.
Krampus is coming to town.
A goat-man creature bound to service by the Devil, Krampus’ origins trace back to Germanic traditions from before the advent of Christianity. Per the myth, Krampus goes from home to home (in some places, along with St. Nick), seeking naughty children. Some get off with a stern warning, but for the truly bad children, you better watch out. Krampus throws these children into his sack (or, in some traditions, into a washtub he drags behind him) and carries the child off, to be made into Christmas dinner.
Been rotten this year? No need to get nervous on Christmas Eve; if you’ve made it that far, you are in the clear. Krampus makes the rounds on the night of December 5th, being the eve of the feast of St. Nicholas. As is customary, many people dress up in Krampus costumes that night (as seen above) and take to the streets that night, going home to home “scaring” children. The custom further suggests giving these false Krampuses a drink (schnapps is recommended) to make them go away.
Or just be good, for goodness’ sake.
From the Archives: The Christmas Truce: It involves Germany, but not Krampus.
Related: “Devilish Greetings: Krampus Vintage Devil Postcards” by Monte Beauchamp. Described as “a fascinating, full-color compendium of extremely rare devil postcards culled from key postcard collections from around the world and spanning approximately 1898 through the 1950s.” Five stars on four reviews.