Dark and Mischievous Christmas Traditions
If the image of a jolly, laughing Santa Claus and prancing reindeers is all a bit too sweet for you, there is no shortage of tales and characters to balance out all that cheer.
Krampus - the half-man, half-goat demon
Every year on December 5th, the evening before St Nicholas, people in Germany, Austria, and other parts of Europe come out to celebrate Krampusnacht.
Krampus is a mythical creature originating in the Alpine regions of Europe. He is a hairy, horned figure with cloven hooves and a long, pointed tongue. He is traditionally dressed in a fur suit, with a chain and bells around his waist. While Saint Nicholas rewards the good children with presents, Krampus carries a bundle of birch sticks, which he uses to whip the naughty children. He is also thought to have a basket or sack, in which he carries away the bad children to be punished.
The origin of Krampus is unknown, but he is thought to have evolved from pre-Christian traditions. The figure of Krampus was first recorded in written form in a 17th-century book from Austria, but the traditions surrounding him are likely much older. Many believe he is related to European pagan gods, such as Pan or Hermes, who were also thought to punish naughty children.
Krampus festivals are becoming increasingly common, where people dress up as the mythical creature and parade through the streets at night. The furry costumes are made to look scary with demonic masks, horns, whips, and torches and those dressed up will interact with the crowds flicking their whip and scaring kids and adults alike.
Krampus isn't the only sinister Christmas tradition keeping the misbehaving children up at night...