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Krampus, Santa of the dark side

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According to the Alpine folklore of Krampus, which means “claw,” not only are bad children not rewarded with gifts at Christmas, but through the night of Dec. 5 and the morning of Dec. 6, naughty children are punished for their wicked behavior.

The legend indicates that Santa and Krampus first traveled together centuries ago to visit the children at Christmas. In addition to expecting coal in their stockings for being bad, children were told by their parents that Santa wouldn’t be leaving anything for them at all. Instead, St. Nicholas’ mate Krampus carried whips, switches and chains and would be bringing them a more suitable compensation for their failure to behave. And, evidently, jolly Santa just stood by and let Krampus have at it!

As time went on, bringing to my slightly warped mind the story of Jesus and Satan, Krampus got tired of playing second fiddle, and went off on his own.

His appearance initially wasn’t quite as gruesome as it is described today - quite the opposite of jolly ole St. Nicholas. Krampus looks more like a devil as he is said to stand on two hooves and sports horns and a long tongue. He also carries a basket for carrying away naughty kids. He takes them to his den where he beats and spanks the children until they are remorseful for their mischief, and promise not to misbehave again! If the child was stubborn, and didn’t regret his actions, he or she would be tossed into the fires of Hell.

According to a story written by Christian Bryant and published December 8, 2013 by, Krampus is now sometimes included in Christmas celebrations in the United States, in an event called Krampus Night or Krampusnacht.

Bloomington, Indiana celebrates Krampus Night each year on December 7. According to their website, “Krampus, free of the control of St. Nicholas,” comes to town to “stalk naughty prey,” and naughty children and adults are encouraged to attend the festivities.

Detroit, Michigan holds a Krampus Night and Wreck the Halls Exhibition each year as well in which they present an “anti-holiday” holiday show displaying “monstrosities” that local artists have built especially for the “demented” celebration that brings in toys for children as part of the Toys for Tots campaign.

At the Alhambra Theater in Portland, Oregon, a Krampus Nacht Ball is held each year that includes a costume contest.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a Krampus celebration is held fairly close to where you live. I just now checked and found the Krampus Art Show & Festival held December 6 and 7 in St. Louis, only about 100 miles south of me!

References and additional information:



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