Monday, December 12, 2005


I was initiated into the Krampus tradition by my Hungarian, Transylvanian, and Czech in-laws many years ago. Right up my alley, you might say! From

On Dec. 5, the eve of the feast day of St. Nick, Austrians celebrate Krampus by running across the city in grotesque masks and generally scaring children. This is an extension of the good-cop, bad-cop theory. St. Nick makes his rounds on Dec. 6 rewarding all the good little children, a task which is made easy since Krampus has been out the night before, punishing pretty much the same children with a good switching. more...

The hideous Krampus is a shaggy monster with horns, covered with bells and dragging chains. In Bavaria, St. Nikolaus is followed by a similar horned creature, called Klaubauf; in Styria this attendant is named Bartel. Krampus carries the presents for the good and a birch stick or lumps of coal for the naughty ones. It is rumored that naughty children might get put in the sack and taken along to hell.
In the Salzburg area there are Krampus runs on and around December 5th, preceding the festival of St. Nikolaus. The tradition in the National Park region is that St. Nikolaus drags along not just a single Krampus, but a group of up to ten of these frightening freaks. The Krampus masks are known as Larven. A proper Krampus Larve must of course have large horns, and the carver usually uses the horns of a goat, Ibex or Chamois.There are two ways to get a good look at St. Nikolaus and his Krampuses in the Salzburg region. The easiest way is having children... then you can invite Jolly old St.Nick into your home, and the Krampus will come with him to help your little ones wet their pants. The second way is to visit one of the street runs or parades.
In Hungary, there are the same two key Christmas figures... Mikulás (St. Nick) and Krampusz. St. Nick is a nice-ish tall thin guy who dresses in either red or white and gives out candies or presents. Krampusz punishes bad children by beating them or taking them away. Clearly Europeans are still into hitting and threatening their kids in a public way. Scary! Clay Rizen has a nice personal write up of his Krampus experience here.