Image of the Krampus on a Krampuskarten

The Krampus is a Germanic folk lore character found in tales during the Christmas Holidays. One of Saint Nicholas's companions, the Krampus's features include horns, long dark hair on its body, and a large used to kidnap and punish children who have been naughty. The Krampus serves as an inspiration for a traditional parade in multiple eastern european countries called Krampuslauf, meaning the Krampus run, as well as in seasonal greeting cards[1].

Etymology Edit

Krampus (sometimes "Grampus") comes from the word Krampen which is the old german equivalent to the word claw[2]. Derivatives of the word Krampus include:

Krampuslauf - Krampus lauf (meaning run), a traditional run in Eastern European countries including Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic[2]. Krampuskarten - Krampus karten (meaning cards), greeting cards that feature an image of the Krampus[1].

Krampuskarten 2

A traditional Krampuskarten

History Edit

Origins Edit

The Krampus is used as a didactic tale to warn children against misbehaving. While the creature's true origins are uncertain, it is agreed by most that the Krampus has roots in germanic folk tales in the alpine regions. Some even believe that these roots can be traced further back to Germanic Paganism, referencing the creature as the son of Hel in Norse mythology[2]. However, most commonly, the Krampus is viewed as one of the companions of Saint Nicholas, and is often perceived as his evil counter part. While Saint Nicholas would reward nice children with presents, the Krampus would steal naughty children away in its sack. The creature would then carry the children away to his lair and feast upon them as his christmas dinner[1].

Appearance Edit

The characteristics of the Krampus are very similar to those of greek and christian figures, most notably, the satyrs and fauns in greek mythology and the demons of the Christian religion[2]. These features include horns, claws, cloved hooves, and long dark brown or black hair covering its body. Some stories also involve the Krampus using a stick or chain to beat its victims[1].

Controversy Edit

There have been movements that have acted to ban or discourage the portrayal of the Krampus. Specifically, the Catholic Church has spoken against the image of the krampus for it's demonic characteristics and pagan ties. Another effort to suppress the creature included the Austrian government prohibiting Krampus traditions in 1934[1]. However, there has been a recent rejuvenation of interest in the creature, with Krampusnacht and Krampuslauf returning in many countries.

Holiday Traditions Edit

Krampuslauf Edit


Krampuslauf participant

On December 6th, known as Krampusnacht (or Krampus night), people dress as the Krampus, and run through the darken streets, scaring children along the way. Inspired by a 1500 year old pagan ritual, this event is usually accompanied by heavy drinking, especially a liquor known as Krampus schnapps[3]. Recently cities in the U.S. have started their own Krampuslauf traditions as well[4].

Krampuskarten Edit

The Krampuskarten is a tradtional greeting card given during the holiday season. These cards usually featured the Krampus in the act of kidnapping a child, with some including funny poems or stories[5]. While older Krampuskartens depict a more menacing version of the Krampus, modern versions portray the creature as cute and more family friendly[1].

List of Media Edit


Krampus, 2015 film directed by Michael Dougherty

Krampus - An upcoming 2015 horror comedy film directed by Michael Dougherty[6].

A Christmas Horror Story - A 2015 horror film directed by Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, and Brett Sullivan[7].

Krampus: The Reckoning - An upcoming 2015 horror film directed by Robert Conway[7].

Krampus: The Christams Devil - A 2013 horror film directed by Jason Hull[7].

"A Very Supernatural Christmas" - A 2007 Christmas special from the television series Supernatural[7].

"The Grimm Who Stole Christmas" - A 2014 Christmas special from the television series Grimm[7].

"Minstrel Krampus" - A 2005 Christmas special from the cartoon series American Dad[7].

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Roberts, Jason. "History on Krampus... Just in Time for the Christmas."Before It's News. Before It's News Inc., 24 Dec. 2011. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Basu, Tanya. "Who Is Krampus? Explaining the Horrific Christmas Devil."National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
  3. Taylor, Alan. "Krampus: Saint Nicholas' Dark Companion." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 3 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
  4. "Hairy, Scary Krampus Is the Mythological Beast of Holiday Nightmares." The Hub. John Hopkins University, 11 Dec. 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
  5. "Greetings from Krampus." The Public Domain Review. Open Knowledge Foundation. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
  6. Trumbore, Dave. "'Krampus' Trailer Puts Terrifying Spin on Christmas Spirit." Collider. Complex Media Inc., 9 Sept. 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Squires, John. "Krampus: From Relative Obscurity to Horror Movie Icon."Halloween Love. Halloween Love, 8 Sept. 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.