Krampus Folklore, History and Devil Facts

If you are from Germany or Bavaria or Central Europe than you must have heard about a scary Christmas devil called the Krampus which means “claw”.

In legends, Krampus is described as “half-demon, half-goat”, that is horned and anthropomorphic, who, during the season of Christmas, punishes kids who have disobeyed. This differs with Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts.

Let’s take a look at him and just as prominently, the huge yearly festivity (such as in Alpine towns) in his decency called Krampusnacht. It is also featured in various holiday greeting cards referred to as Krampuskarten.

Origin and History

The origin of the Christmas devil is uncertain; some historians and anthropologists have suggested it as having pre-Christian origins.


In customary carnivals and such occasions as the Krampuslauf (English: Krampus run), young men outfitted as the Christmas devil partake.

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He is one of the acquaintances of Saint Nicholas in various cultures including Austria, Bavaria, Croatia, Hungary, Northern Italy including South Tyrol and the Trentino, and Slovenia.

He is supposed to have devised in Germany, and his name derives from the German word Krampen, which means “claw.”

Experts usually say that the Christmas devil lore maybe originates from some sort of early horned deity, who was then confirmed into the Christian devil figure.

Origin and History
Origin and History

The Christian devil figure is believed to have its roots with the Pagan Rituals that were used for the winter solstice.

According to lore, he is the child of Hel and the Norse god of gangland.

Despite the efforts of various Roman Catholic Churches to ban the Christmas Devil, he is still being associated with the festival.

The mortal and St. Nicholas are believed to come to the evening of December 5 (Krampusnacht; “Krampus Night”).

While he beats the naughty children with branches and sticks, St. Nicholas often reward children with presents and gifts. On December 6, St. Nicholas Day, kids rouse to find their gifts or take care of their wounds.

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Celebrations relating the devil comprise the Krampuslauf (“Krampus run”). In some cases, he is thought to consume the kids or take them to hell.

The Krampuslauf celebrations often involve the use of alcohol and devotees get dressed as the being to do parade show on the streets. They try to scare the spectators by chasing them.

With the beginning of the 21st century, amidst struggles to reserve ethnic legacy, he runs became gradually prevalent in Austria and Germany.

In the course of this time, he started to be eminent globally, and the beast’s emergent charm was shown by several horror movies.

More or less the growing fame of the god was a reply to the commercialization of Christmas.

Why one must Beware the Christmas devil?

The word is derived from a German word that means “claw,” and certain Alpine towns have big events including this creepy clawed incubus who hangs around with Santa Claus.

Why one must Beware the Krampus
Why one must Beware the Krampus?

The costume also comprises sheepskin, spines, and a button that the incubus uses to slap kids and naive young ladies.

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Its main work is to penalize those who have been wicked or evil, while Santa prizes the folks on his “nice” list.

There’s been a rebirth in the notice in Christmas devil over the past era or so, but it looks as though the practice goes back to 100’s of years.

The exact roots of the Christmas devil are not exactly known by the anthropologists but they assume that the deity probably originated from some sort of early horned god, who was then adapted into the Christian devil figure.

During the traditional winter celebrations of the 15th and 16th century, different masked devils gained popularity in various church plays.

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These events in practice later became a permanent part of the pre-Christmas fun every year as they included comedic and ludicrous elements to the script.

Tanya Basu of National Geographic says,

“His frightening presence was suppressed for many years, the Roman Catholic Church forbade the raucous celebrations, and fascists in World War II Europe found him despicable because it was considered a creation of the Social Democrats.”

It is believed that the devil has taken his own like and there still exists his presence in the form of comic books, greeting cards, ornaments, graphic novels and featured movies.

It has acted as the pillar for the pop culture, which is kind of odd if we think in-depth about it.

The devil can be seen in a G4 ad, acting in the dark to shove Christmas carolers out of his way, and has exposed in episodes of Scooby-Doo, American Housewife, and Lost Girl.

In the 3rd season of the popular TV series Supernatural, Sam and Dean across the devil but later learn he’s not existent, and the character they’re dealing with is a Pagan god.

In print, Gerald Brom’s novel Krampus: The Yule Lord takes place in the foothills of West Virginia, and the Carnival video game contains Christmas devil as one of the bosses.

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In a passing article debating the figure, printed in 1958, Maurice Bruce wrote:

There seems to be little doubt as to his true identity for, in no other form is the full regalia of the Horned God of the Witches so well preserved. The birch apart from its phallic significance – may have a connection with the initiation rites of certain witch covens; rites which entailed binding and scourging as a form of mock-death. The chains could have been introduced in a Christian attempt to ‘bind the Devil’ but again they could be a remnant of pagan initiation rites.

How to celebrate the Krampusnacht festival?

Various parts of Germany and Bavaria celebrate the devil Festival on 5th December, which is most likely a return to the pre-Christian culture.

How to celebrate the Krampusnacht festival
How to celebrate the Krampusnacht festival?

Most of the locals’ dress like creepy demons and have fun around them, wearing facades and signifying Frau Perchta, a Nordic symbol that may have been a facet of Freyja, the lushness and war deity.

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Excitingly, in the Pennsylvania Dutch public, there’s a personality called Pumpernickel or Belznickel who is a horrific lot like Christmas devil, so it looks that the custom migrated through the water when Germans settled in America.

The official home of “Krampus, the holiday devil,” i.e., calls him a

“dark equivalent of Saint Nicholas, the old European gift-bringer who calls on his sacred day of 6th December.  The bishop-garbed St. Nicholas rewards good kids with gifts and treats; unlike the archetypal Santa, however, St. Nicholas never punishes naughty children, parceling out this task to a ghastly helper from below.”

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Ed Mazza at the Huffing-ton Post says of a Christmas devil celebration in Czechoslovakia,

“The devil costumes at the Kaplice parade were quite elaborate. Getty Images reported that they were often made of sheep or goatskin, and had large cowbells attached to the waist.”

Debating his remarks in 1975 while in Irdning, a small town in Styria, anthropologist John J. Honigmann wrote that:

The Saint Nicholas festival we are describing incorporates cultural elements widely distributed in Europe, in some cases going back to pre-Christian times. Nicholas himself became popular in Germany around the eleventh century. The feast dedicated to this patron of children is only one winter occasion in which children are the objects of special attention, others being Martinmas, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, and New Year’s Day. Masked devils acting boisterously and making nuisances of themselves are known in Germany since at least the sixteenth century while animal masked devils combining dreadful-comic (schauriglustig) antics appeared in Medieval church plays. A large literature, much of it by European folklorists, bears on these subjects. Austrians in the community we studied are quite aware of “heathen” elements being blended with Christian elements in the Saint Nicholas customs and other traditional winter ceremonies. They believe that the devil derives from a pagan supernatural who was assimilated to the Christian devil.

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Krampus, in crucial European standard lore, a half-goat, half-demon giant that punishes naughty children at Christmas eve.  

He is the devilish acquaintance of St. Nicholas. He, who is thought to have created in Germany, and his name develops from the German word Krampen, which means “claw.”

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What does Krampus do to his victims?

He carries cuffs, alleged to signify the binding of the Devil by the Christian Church. He beats the chains for dramatic effect. Sometimes he comes with a sack or a basket broke to his back; this is to cart off wicked kids for sinking, troubling, or passage to Hell.

How Krampus punish children?

It was originated as a complement to kind St. Nicholas, who pleased children with sweets. The devil, in disparity, would swat “wicked” kids, put them in a bag, and take them away to his place.

What is Krampus weakness?

The weakness is that when offered a piece of fruit like an apple or orange by a kid, he would generously accept the offer, share it with people around him and engage them in a conversation. He may be an evil demon, but he is also fair and therefore, he leaves the place after completing his meal.