Night of the Krampus (Krampusnacht)
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"Gruß Vom Krampus" ~ Greetings from the Krampus
One thing people certainly didn't bother with in the old days was concern over child psychology. The Krampus of European folklore historically comes around the night of December 5th, in tandem with St. Nicholas. While St. Nicholas will put candy in the shoes of good kids and birch twigs in the shoes of the bad, the terrifying goat-demon, the Krampus, has a particular specialty in punishing naughty children! Legend has it that throughout the Christmas season, misbehaved kids are beaten with birch branches or can disappear, stuffed into Krampus' sack and hauled off to his lair to be tortured or eaten! This wonderful concept was popularly illustrated in the 1800s in the form of Krampuskarten, holiday cards that people would exchange for a bit of holiday cheer! Merry Krampus!
The Naughty Child
Popular in German-speaking Alpine folklore, the figure of Krampus is a devil-like horned creature who punishes badly-behaved children during the Christmas season. Arriving on the eve of St. Nicholas' Day, December5th, Krampusnact (Night of the Krampus), was equally anticipated and feared by European children everywhere.
As one can see from the scenes played out on the "Krampuskarten" featured below, a rather sinister form of the normal Christmas card, this punishment usually took the form of kidnapping, with Krampus often depicted whisking naughty children away to hell or some other similarly distressing location. Such cards have been exchanged in Europe since the 1800s and were particularly popular in the early part of the 20th century, often accompanied with the phrase Gruß vom Krampus (Greetings from the Krampus).
The origin of Krampus is not entirely clear. Some folklorists postulate a pre-Christian origin for the figure, with the ruten, the bundle of branches he is shown holding (when not wielding chains), having significance in pre-Christian pagan initiation rites. In addition to the exchange of cards the tradition finds expression in Krampusnacht, the night preceding the Feast of St Nicholas on the 6th December, where the hairy devil appears on the streets frightening children and dispensing coal and the ruten bundles to homes and businesses.
For a sweeter take on the Krampus, click the vintage Krampuskarten below for a list of recipes for Krampus cakes and cookies!