Over the last few years you have noticed the name ‘Krampus’ being thrown around around the holiday season. He certainly seems to have seen a resurgence recently and embraced in countries outside of Europe. If you’re not sure who this demonic Christmas Creature is, you’re in for a ride.
The pagan origins of Krampus
Krampus is an integral part of the holiday period across central Europe, particularly the alpine regions of Austria and Germany.
The name ‘Krampus’ comes from the German word ‘Krampen’ which means ‘claw’. His origins can be traced back to Norse mythology. He’s said to be the son of Hel — the youngest daughter of Loki. Hel reigned over Helheim (sometimes also just called Hel), the Norse underworld. So if you were wondering why Krampus’ general half-goat-half-demon aesthetic reminds you a bit of Satan, this explains it.
Krampus is believed to have been incorporated into pre-Germanic Paganism around winter solstice. This is said to have included men dressing up in fur suits and masks to scare away winter ghosts. According to National Geographic, this tradition as survived to the modern day.
But now men will drink and dress up as devils for a ‘Krampus Run’ where they chase people through the streets for funsies.
Much like other aspects of Paganism, Krampus was woven into into Christian traditions with the Rise of Christianity throughout Europe. And so he was transformed into the opposite of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children.
While St. Nick was said to bring children gifts and sweet, Krampus would punish wicked children by beating them with birch branches, stuffing them into a sack and dragging them back to his lair.
Krampus is supposed to show up on December 5, known as Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night. This is the day before St Nicholas Day, or Nikolaustag. This is the day when children see whether St Nick them them presents or a rod in a boot left out the previous night.
There’s no stopping him
According to Smithsonian Mag, the Catholic Church tries to stop Krampus celebrations in the 12th century due to his resemblance with Satan. Austria conservative Christian Social Party tried this again in 1934 but it failed both times. And as we’ve seen over the last few years, Krampus seems to be more popular than ever,
Not only does his traditions live in on Europe, but he has begun bleeding into popular culture in other parts of the world.
Not only are people throwing Krampus parties but he even has his own comic book series and movie. I guess people are looking to get back to some of the less sanitary origins of Christmas, and bring it on honestly.