The horned "half-goat, half-demon" Krampus is said to roam the streets in early December, in search of naughty children to punish. The legend of Krampus originated in Germanic folklore, but now spans several continents and centuries. The malevolent figure brandishes a handful of birch sticks for whipping the disobedient children, carrying the naughtiest on his back ready to take them to the the underworld.
In Europe, greeting cards featuring Krampus have been exchanged since the 1800s. Sometimes with the words "Gruß vom Krampus" ("Greetings from Krampus"), the cards usually have humorous rhymes and poems.
The Feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated in parts of Europe on 6 December, and the 5th is Krampus Night or Krampusnacht. Costumed characters are a central part of all Krampus celebrations. These characters include: Krampus, Saint Nikolaus, the woodsman, angels, and the old woman. As Krampus is half-goat and half-demon, the costume normally shares certain primary elements such as: a fur suit, horns, demon mask, and hooves. Props commonly used are; bells, a birch switch, basket worn on the back, chains, walking staff, and a horse hair or hemp flogger.The lyrics to "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" have a whole new meaning now!
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Santa Clause and his strange counterparts in Matrei, Eastern Tyrol, Austria circa 1935. (Getty Images)
By Unknown - Historie čertů Krampus Uploaded by Kohelet, Public Domain