The Krampus

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Really just fills you with that old-time Christmas Spirit, doesn't he?

Krampus is an Alpine mountain Christmas demon who figures heavily in the Christmas traditions of Central Alpine Europe. According to legend, Krampus accompanies St. Nicholas during the early Christmas season. Depending on the story, Krampus is either a regular demon enslaved by St. Nicholas to do the Saint's bidding, or is a demon who willingly and gladly works as St. Nicholas's partner. Krampus acts as the Bad Cop to St. Nicholas's Good Cop, warning and punishing bad children into being good, in contrast to St. Nicholas, who instead rewards good children with simple, small gifts.

In the Alpine regions, Krampus takes the form of a giant demon covered in goat, bear or ram fur, his head sporting large horns with a long, slavering tongue often hanging out of his mouth. Depending on the story, Krampus may have chained shackles on his wrists, signifying his enslavement to St. Nicholas. Generally though, Krampus will be wearing several large bells (as a warning to any who hear them that he's coming), along with a large wicker basket and birch rod. If someone has been bad, Krampus will either threaten a beating with his birch rod or actually give one. If his target has been particularly bad, then Krampus stuffs them into his wicker basket, and drags them off to punish them for their crimes. Depending on the story, Krampus will either bring them to St. Nicholas's home, Krampus's own mountain underworld, Hell, or mid 12th century Moorish/Muslim Spain.

Traditionally, young men in Southern Germany, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland and even Northern Italy dress up as the Krampus during the first two weeks of December, particularly on the evening of December 5, and roam the streets in grand, sweeping parades through town. Often, they will go after adults in the audience who are in on the fun, especially tourists encountering their first "Krampus Parade" or attractive young women. Curiously, despite their fearsome appearance and reputation, the (plural) Krampusi are generally fairly kind to children, generally exempting them from the schenanigans they pull on the adults.

Despite the frightening overtones, Krampus is quite a popular character in the Alpine countries. He brings some harmless "scary" fun to the Christmas season, not unlike what happens at Halloween. He is also not alone as the companion of St. Nicholas. Compare him with Knecht Ruprecht, a German character who performs a similar role (though more as a stern authority figure than a nasty devil), or the Lady Perchta, a female version of Krampus who can either be drop-dead gorgeous or hideously ugly. See also Bad Santa, which the Krampus is occasionally portrayed as.

Depictions of the Krampus in media


  • In 2015 a horror film based on the myth, called simply Krampus, was released just around the holiday season.

Live Action TV

  • On an episode of The Colbert Report, Stephen decides to join forces with Krampus to fight the eeeeeevil liberal secularists' War on Christmas. He offers Krampus some cookies and milk, which Krampus promptly whips with a rusty chain, then threatens to drag Stephen to Hell.
  • On the old G4 channel, there was an old ad for one of the shows featuring Krampus. Enjoy.

Video Games

Web Comics

  • In PvP, Krampus became a major part of the 2011 Christmas Arc, as the cat Scratch Fury's Kringus persona was permanently defeated the previous year.
  • In one of Rhapsodies' annual Christmas episodes a band of Krampusi are part of the staff in the prison naughty children are taken, another year they are sent to take Kevin away.
  • In Chickenhare, the character Barry is a Krampus, whose race resemble hairy demonic ape-men that live in the Underworld.
  • In Something*Positive, Davan gives PeeJee the rundown on who Krampus is at one point.
  • In the Erma strip titled "Erma Strip # 23", the titular Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl leaves cookies out for the Krampus instead of for Santa.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • In The Venture Brothers Christmas Special, the Krampus is accidentally summoned by Hank and Dean and proceeds to punish Rusty Venture.
  • American Dad has a rather interesting spin on this character. At first, it seems that Santa is benign as he gives presents to good little children and Krampus is malevolent as he punishes children for bad behavior. But as it turns out, Krampus actually DOESN'T punish children for fun. He does it because he wants them to grow up to become productive members of society. When Steve finds out the truth, he and Krampus actually become friends. Santa, in contrast, is secretly the corrupter to children - he corrupts children so that they'll buy more toys from him.