Are you being a bad person this year? If yes, you better watch out, because the night of 5 December is Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night, where Krampus will come to punish you and drag you to the underworld!
Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure described as “half-goat, half-demon”, who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved. He is one of the companions of Saint Nicholas (who, in contrast, rewards the well-behaved with gifts) in several regions including Austria, Bavaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Northern Italy including South Tyrol, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Krampus is similar to Piet, Sinterklaas‘ helper, although Krampus is much more sinister.
Krampus is often depicted as hairy, usually brown or black, and has the cloven hooves and horns of a goat. His long, pointed tongue lolls out, and he has fangs. Krampus carries chains, thought to symbolize the binding of the Devil by the Christian Church, and will often thrashes the chains for dramatic effect. He also carries Ruten, bundles of birch branches, with which he occasionally swats children.
The Feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated in parts of Europe on 6 December. On the preceding evening of 5 December, Krampus Night or Krampusnacht, the wicked hairy devil appears on the streets. Sometimes accompanying St. Nicholas and sometimes on his own, Krampus visits homes and businesses. And on the preceding weeks, Krampuslauf or Krampus Run will be held, where young men will dress as Krampus and chase and frighten passer-by. Krampus schnapps, a strong distilled fruit brandy, will often be served at Krampuslauf. It is customary also that during Krampuslauf, young women will dress as Perchta, a pagan Goddess of German origin, and join the Run.
How about you? Have you ever participated on Krampusnacht or Krampuslauf? Tell us!