German Christmas card (colour litho), English School, (20th century) / Private Collection / © Look and Learn / Valerie Jackson Harris Collection

What are your chances of being punished by the Krampus this Christmas?

Festive tradition or Bah Humbug? The Krampus is a mythological creature that appears in Alpine folklore and traditions. You may be asking yourself right now: “Who, or what, the hell is Krampus?” Well, “hell” is a pretty good starting place to explain…

 

Krampus and St. Nicholas from the journal of Carl Baumann written 1813-25 (w/c), Paumgarrten, Franz (19th century) / Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna, Austria
Krampus and St. Nicholas from the journal of Carl Baumann written 1813-25 (w/c), Paumgarrten, Franz (19th century) / Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna, Austria


A Christmas devil?
 

The Krampus looks like what one would imagine a devil or demon straight out of hell to look like: a horned head, black and red face, furry body and carrying a chain and birch. In many depictions he resembles a type of devilish goat or satyr.

 

Left: Postcard depicting 'Krampuss', 1906 (colour litho), Hungarian School, (20th century) / Private Collection / Archives Charmet Right: Saint Nicholas (photo) / Godong/UIG
Left: Postcard depicting ‘Krampuss’, 1906 (colour litho), Hungarian School, (20th century) / Private Collection / Archives Charmet
Right: Saint Nicholas (photo) / Godong/UIG


Good versus Bad
 

The mythological creature is often shown as a companion of Santa, or Saint Nicholas as he is known in Alpine countries. While Saint Nicholas brings gifts to good children on the 6th of December, traditionally consisting of bags stuffed with fruit and nuts or some smaller toys, the Krampus punishes naughty children by carrying them away in a basket on his back.

 

Left: St. Nicholas distributing presents to the children, German postcard printed in Hungarian, 1939 (colour litho), German School, (20th century) / Private Collection / Archives Charmet Right: German Christmas card (colour litho), English School, (20th century) / Private Collection / © Look and Learn / Valerie Jackson Harris Collection
Left: St. Nicholas distributing presents to the children, German postcard printed in Hungarian, 1939 (colour litho), German School, (20th century) / Private Collection / Archives Charmet
Right: German Christmas card (colour litho), English School, (20th century) / Private Collection / © Look and Learn / Valerie Jackson Harris Collection

 

Tradition reloaded

Nowadays, lots of young men dress up as Krampus in parts of Germany and Austria to take part in “Krampus runs”. They roam the streets in groups, showing their animalistic side by trying to frighten children and young women alike. Their grim costumes often include wooden masks with horns, sheep or goat skins, bells, chains and birch rods, which they lash out with in a playful manner.

 

 So, what’s it going to be for you this advent season? Have you been good or bad?

 

Left: German Christmas card (colour litho), English School, (20th century) / Private Collection / © Look and Learn / Valerie Jackson Harris Collection Right: Postcard depicting the Bogeyman, 1904 (colour litho), European School, (20th century) / Private Collection / Archives Charmet
Left: German Christmas card (colour litho), English School, (20th century) / Private Collection / © Look and Learn / Valerie Jackson Harris Collection
Right: Postcard depicting the Bogeyman, 1904 (colour litho), European School, (20th century) / Private Collection / Archives Charmet


Find out more
 

All images in this article are sourced from www.bridgemanimages.com. Contact the Bridgeman sales team (uksales@bridgemanimages.com) for more information regarding licensing, reproduction and copyright issues.

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