Are you ready for Krampusnacht? Not sure what that is? It’s the night of Krampus! Still confused? Then you’ve come to the right place.
Krampus is a scary horned creature who punishes naughty children during the Christmas season. His origins are foggy, but he hails from Northern Europe and probably pre-dates St. Nicholas, with whom he travels. Think of Krampus as a kind of “bad cop” to Santa’s “good cop.” Have you been nice this year? Then expect the jolly old man to reward you. Been less than nice? Then don’t be surprised if a horned demon shows up to beat you with a stick.
National Geographic’s website says, “According to folklore, Krampus purportedly shows up in towns the night before December 6, known as Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night. December 6 also happens to be Nikolaustag, or St. Nicholas Day, when German children look outside their door to see if the shoe or boot they’d left out the night before contains either presents (a reward for good behavior) or a rod (bad behavior).”
In the early 1900s, the tradition of exchanging Krampuskarten, or greeting cards featuring Krampus, began. According to Wikipedia, they were “Sometimes introduced with Gruß vom Krampus (Greetings from Krampus),” and they usually had “humorous rhymes and poems. Krampus is often featured looming menacingly over children. He is also shown as having one human foot and one cloven hoof.” And he will not hesitate to shove your naughty self into a basket.
In contemporary times, there’s a new Krampus tradition, and it “involves drunken men dressed as devils, who take over the streets for a Krampuslauf—a Krampus Run of sorts, when people are chased through the streets by the “devils.”” These frighteningly fun festivities are becoming more popular every year across the United States, from Washington D.C. to San Francisco, so be careful if you’re out tomorrow night. You might run into Krampus himself.