It’s that time of year again: Krampusnacht!
Krampus is a demonic looking beast who punishes naughty children during the Yuletide season. He’s depicted as tall, hairy, horned, and grotesque; equipped with whips, chains, and a sack to steal children away.
Krampus can be traced back to pre-Christian Germanic traditions. Early Christians tried to discourage Krampus lore, but the Catholic Church finally gave up and incorporated him into their winter traditions by pairing him with Saint Nicholas in the 17th century. While Saint Nicholas spent the Christmas season rewarding children with presents, Krampus punished them for their ill deeds.
Aesthetically Krampus evokes the old and infinite, the rawness of nature, the unforgiving rule of balance, and the supernatural allure of darkness.
Krampusnacht has seen a resurgence, thanks in part to its popularity on the internet. It’s still celebrated primarily in Alpine countries where young men create Krampus costumes and cause a ruckus the eve of Saint Nicholas’ Day–December 6. The creativity, skill, and theatricality involved is truly impressive.