In former lands of Austria – Hungary Empire, today known as Austria, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia, predominantely in Alpine regions of these countries, the horned demon-like figure is an essential part of the beginning of the holiday season. It is not so easy to describe a Krampus. Or maybe it’s easier to describe one, than to actually imagine what he looks like. He is a terrifying creature, with long horns and a goaty beard, resembling the Satan himself.
Land of Austria-Hungary Empire in 1910.
Originally, Krampus was a purely pagan creation, said to be the son of Hel from Norse mythology. But he got grafted onto Christian tradition as a sidekick of St. Nicholas, a good man who bring presents to the good kids. They represent the bright and the dark side, to create a balance, Saint Nicholas with the presents for the good ones and the Krampus with sticks and pain for the bad ones.
A legend says that a Krampus spends a night visiting each house with children. He than leaves a bunch of sticks for the bad kids and even takes the most disobedient ones with him. Through history parents used the idea of a Krampus taking their children, to scare the children into being good and obedient. Some houses even had figurines of a Krampus displayed in the house all-year-round just as a reminder to the kids that a Krampus is watching and he just might come and get them. For the good kids, that haven’t been taken by a Krampus, the next morning means time for presents.
Krampus taking a child. Date and location unknown.