The Legend of Krampus

When I was planning my trip to Salzburg last year, I discovered a very interesting character that plays a huge part in Christmas tradition in Austria. And ironically enough, a couple months later, the movie Krampus hit theaters, giving more people a glimpse into the legend (although much more distorted, because Hollywood).

After experiencing a “Krampus Run” in Salzburg, I’m even more fascinated by Krampus, so in honor of St. Nicholas Day (tomorrow), here’s more on the legend of Krampus. It’s worth also mentioning quickly these things are pretty terrifying to look at so I hope you’re not reading this before bed!

Curious about St. Nicholas' creepy-looking companion? Read all about the legend of Krampus!

Who is Krampus?

Krampus is essentially the Christmas devil, for lack of a better phrase. He comes the night before St. Nicholas Day on Krampusnacht (Krampus Night) to “take care of” kids on the naughty list (i.e. hauling them off to the underworld with them) before St. Nicholas’ arrival on December 6. With horns, dark hair, fangs, and chains and bells, this is NOT the guy you want showing up for Christmas!

The Origin of Krampus

No one knows when exactly the legend of Krampus begun, but it’s been a part of the Christmas tradition in Germany,  Austria, and other European countries for centuries (before Christianity even began)! The legend was created to encourage good behavior in children and some say Krampus could even be Santa’s evil twin and that the two represent the balance between good/evil and light/dark! Krampus also shares many characteristics of scary, demonic creatures in Greek mythology, so it seems inspiration was definitely drawn from there when this folk story was created!

Doesn’t this one look like a White Walker from Game of Thrones?!

Krampus Today

While St. Nicholas (Santa) gets most of the attention these days, the legend of Krampus isn’t forgotten. Several Christmas markets in Austria and Germany include a “Krampus Run,” where people dressed as Krampus run through the market alongside St. Nicholas, coming after who’s not on St. Nicholas’ approved list. All in good fun, of course.

Bonus note: If you’re considering a trip to Salzburg, I HIGHLY recommend visiting during Christmastime. Seeing the Krampus Run in person was a sight to see! There was a 45-minute show involved as well, including St. Nicholas, angels, a family (all of who fortunately were on the good list), and of course, a TON of Krampus’. In fact, there seemed to be several different clubs/people from different regions who each represented a different style Krampus (several of which you can see in this post)! It was one of the coolest cultural things I’ve seen and experienced!

Happy St. Nicholas Day (tomorrow) to those of you who celebrate! I hope St. Nicholas brings you some great treats and that you’re not visited by Krampus on this Krampusnacht!

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  • Leslie Soto

    Oh My Goodness! That’s definitely a little frightening, except the white furry guy; he’s kinda charming. I can imagine how cool that would be to see in person. Thank you for sharing the story of Krampus. I’d never heard it before.

    • Haha, it was quite the sight to see! I’m glad you learned something new :) I hope you get to experience it yourself in person one day!

  • So I’m pretty sure that kids in the United States would be a lot nicer and less naughty if there was a chance that Krampus would haul them off to the Underworld! He looks terrifying, but that does sound like a really cool thing to experience!

    • My thoughts exactly, haha! It felt almost like Halloween at Christmas but it was such a cool experience!

  • I was never told about Krampus as a child but I have heard of it. I def makes sense that it would be Santa’s evil twin! I’m sure if any kid ever saw him they would not act up at all!

    • Right?! I’m not sure why they don’t talk (or show pictures) of him more, haha.

  • Oh man this looks intense! Seriously love the photos. It’s interesting that’s a big part of their holiday traditions haha

    • Thank you! It was a pretty crazy thing to experience, but really cool! Part of the beauty of travel!

  • Allyson Becker

    I recently learned about Krampus. I recommend the movie. It is scary but I really actually enjoy it.

    • I actually saw the movie after my trip! The Krampus in it wasn’t as scary as these guys, but it was still pretty good!

  • I had never heard about Krampus until last year when the movie came out and the movie looked TERRRIFYING. I love learning about the history behind it, though!

    • Haha, it wasn’t too bad! The timing was pretty crazy on it for me too. I learned about it mid-year (last year) and then I found out about the event in Salzburg AND the movie a few months later!

  • Those are definitely scary! We used to live in Europe, and heard of Saint Nick, but never heard of Krampus. I am pretty sure I would have been terrified.

    • They were pretty scary to look at, but equally intriguing! I love learning about traditions and culture of other countries!

  • Kelsie Kleinmeyer

    Wow! Who knew?? So scary!! Sounds like a fun show.

    • It was very interesting (and entertaining)! I love learning about other countries’ culture!

  • I love the legend of krampus! Much better than a lump of coal!

    Xxox
    Laura@ http://www.cookwineandthinker.com

    • Haha, so true! I think there would be no bad kids if we told this legend more vs. coal!