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Patti Wigington

Yule Countdown: Krampusnacht

By December 4, 2013

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Get ready for Yule!
If you're naughty,
beware the Krampus!
Image Getty Images
December 5 is the night on which parts of Germany and Bavaria start celebrating Krampusnacht, which is a throwback to a pre-Christian tradition. The festival of Krampus is on December 6. The word Krampus means claw, and apparently certain Alpine villages have big parties featuring a scary clawed incubus who hangs around with Santa Claus. The Krampus costume also includes sheepskin, horns, and a switch that the incubus uses to swat children and unsuspecting young ladies. The Krampus' job is to punish those who have been bad, while Santa rewards the people on his "nice" list. There's been a resurgence in interest in Krampus over the past century or so, but it seems as though the custom goes back hundreds of years: Krampusnacht.

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December 4, 2008 at 8:16 pm
(1) Shane says:

Thanks for the wonderful post Patti. I love the information about Frau Perchta.

December 5, 2008 at 10:47 am
(2) Leisl says:

Well, then … Happy Krampusnacht!

December 5, 2008 at 6:57 pm
(3) Lore says:

Actually it’s on the 6th. Close enough!

Gr vom Krampus! ;D

December 8, 2008 at 3:55 pm
(4) Leonna says:

My father was stationed on an airforce base Germany while he was in the army during Vietnam. He actually has pictures of Santa with Krampusnacht. It’s been years since I saw them them. I remember to what I thought was one of Santa’s Elves but he had a black face. As a kid I really didn’t get but dad explained that he punished naughty kids. I wish I could find the pictures but I know they’re buried somewhere in a closet

December 9, 2008 at 2:14 pm
(5) Gina says:

The Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas on the 5th of December. They don’t celebrate on the 25th. More information on Sinterklaas can be found here ( http://www.thehollandring.com/sinterklaas.shtml ).

December 9, 2008 at 5:01 pm
(6) JoyCrux says:

I noticed that one the Something*Positive website (an online comic with dark humor) they have off-beat Holiday cards – including one featuring the Krampus!

Please note that if you are easily offended that you should NOT view this website. Otherwise, it’s just all in good fun!


December 9, 2008 at 5:03 pm
(7) JoyCrux says:

Oops! I forgot to mention that you can find the Holiday cards (and the Krumpas too) by going to the Store link – as they are for sale (I’ve already ordered my set)!


December 9, 2008 at 6:01 pm
(8) Alicia Harris says:

I actually learned about this in German Class in high school and we had someone dress up as St. Nick and someone dress up as Krampus. They would come around to each german class and Krampus would growl at the class and try to steal notebooks or pencils for the act, and St. Nick would come bringing gifts, maybe a small chocolate or something.

I think it’s awesome you talked about the pre-christian roots of the tradition! I like learning about the histories :) Thanks!

December 9, 2008 at 6:16 pm
(9) wolfgang says:

Now, militant islamic immigrants try to foreclose this folclore in Austria…

December 9, 2008 at 7:21 pm
(10) Manhattan Mermaid says:

I am sorry I missed this! :(

December 6, 2009 at 10:48 am
(11) Matt Martin says:

I have friends that keep making a big deal about it and I didn’t know what it was so thanks for the info <:)

December 25, 2009 at 12:52 pm
(12) Labrys says:

Actually, St. Nickolas and Krampus will appear at parties and gatherings throughout the month of December in Bavaria! And in Berchtesgaden, the wild “Buttmandl” figures—young men wrapped in straw costumes, draped with cowbells and wearing hideous masks will chase women and children around the houses. An entire phase of “Grim Nights” goes on in various areas of Bavaria with monsters parading the streets.

And on Little Yule, Dec. 13—St Lucia’s Night, a white gowned masked woman plays “Lucia” and chases all she encounters with a sickle, singing a gruesome song about gutting them!

But New Year’s Eve comes and all the shooting societies come out in town squares and ritually fire weapons of many varieties….to chase away the Winter Monsters and welcome the New Year.

December 5, 2010 at 10:23 am
(13) samhain says:

my mother called him ‘Knecht Ruprecht’ (sp?). he put the naughty children in sacks and whipped them with sticks. she tells of a time when she and her sisters dragged the neighbor boy down the steps and were caught before they could flail him! i told my own kids the story. one night when they wouldn’t settle down at bed time i went to their bedroom window and knocked at it with a stick. they settled down in a hurry and the next morning told me all about how Ruprechts’ costume and had scolded them in german. my boys loved it! 15 years later they still tell the story at christmas time.

December 9, 2011 at 3:36 pm
(14) Jeremy says:

Krampusnacht is usually celebrated on the 6th with St Nicholas Day on the 5th What is Krampusnacht? Santa’s Dark Companion

December 9, 2011 at 3:38 pm
(15) jeremy says:

Krampusnacht is usually celebrated on the 6th with St Nicolas day on the 5th

December 9, 2011 at 3:39 pm
(16) Jeremy Carter-Gordon says:

Sorry for double post, it wouldn’t let me delete!

December 6, 2012 at 7:59 am
(17) Darren says:

@ Leonna (4th comment) – Interesting anecdote, you have an excuse to go delving through those old photographs that lie buried in a closet now. Who knows what other happy memories you might unearth? Wishing you a happy and peaceful Yuletide -x-

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