Krampusnacht is celebrated on December 5 every year across Germany, other European countries, and Australia. It occurs the night before the celebration of the Feast of St. Nicholas, a night when people dress up as the devil Krampus and chase naughty children through the streets. The children are told off by the Krampus and given bundles of ‘ruten,’ a cluster of twigs, so they don’t forget the Krampus after he leaves. This holiday is becoming increasingly popular in America as well, because it captures a little bit of the excitement and spookiness of Halloween, right before the Christmas season.
History of Krampusnacht
Krampusnacht is celebrated every year on December 5, the night before the celebration of the Feast of St. Nicholas. This holiday is mostly celebrated in Germany, Austria, Croatia, and some other European countries. It is also popular in Australia, and over the years, Krampusnacht’s popularity has grown in North America as well.
Krampusnacht is a celebration of the devil Krampus, who is believed to be a creature that is half-man, half-goat. He is depicted as being hairy with large horns, a goat’s cloven hooves, red eyes, and fangs. However, the depictions of the Krampus vary from region to region. In some depictions, the Krampus is shown wearing chains, and the people wearing Krampus costumes often thrash around in the chains for maximum effect. The chains are to represent the binding of the Devil by Jesus Christ, in Christian mythology.
The Krampus carries bundles of ‘ruten’ or twigs he uses to swat misbehaving children. For the celebrations, these bundles are handed to families so children remember the threat of the Krampus throughout the year and behave themselves. In countries where Krampusnacht is celebrated, St. Nicholas gives gifts to the children, but if they misbehave, the Krampus arrives to take the gifts away and give the children coal and ruten instead. Throughout the night on December 5, men dress up as the Krampus, drink alcohol, and celebrate on the streets.
While the origins of the Krampus are unclear, the idea of a horned demonic entity is pre-Christian. Such a pagan entity may have been absorbed into the seasonal traditions to become part of the celebrations leading up to Christmas.
John J. Honignmann writes about the festival where horned devils terrorized the streets while he was in Irdning, a town in Styria, Austria.
Europeans exchange Christmas cards, offering season’s greetings from the Krampus, usually depicted looming over children.
The tradition and celebration are banned under the Dolfuss government, which also distributes pamphlets about the evilness of the Krampus.
The Krampus tradition is revived, after the Dolfuss government is removed, continuing to this day.
Does Krampus eat you?
While St. Nicholas rewards nice children by leaving presents, Krampus beats those who are naughty with branches and sticks. In some cases, he is said to eat them.
What is the purpose of Krampusnacht?
The Krampus is used as a warning for children to behave themselves throughout the coming year. It is also just a fun excuse for adults to let loose and party!
Why is Krampusnacht popular?
Krampusnacht offers a great alternative to the saccharine sweetness of Christmas celebrations. It is a way for people to celebrate the darker aspects of life.
Set out a schnapps offering
Men in Krampus gear go from house to house, making a ruckus. It is tradition to give them an offering of schnapps before they continue, so make sure you set out some schnapps!
Dress up as the Krampus
What better way to celebrate Krampusnacht than by turning into the Krampus himself? Get your best demon costume on and get to frightening naughty children on the streets.
Host a costume party
Get your friends together for a costume party on the night of December 5. Everyone can dress as the Krampus, and the person with the best costume is crowned “Krampus of the Year.”
5 Facts About The Krampus That Will Blow Your Mind
The word ‘Krampus’ means ‘claw’
Krampus originates from the old Germanic word ‘krampen’ which means claw and refers to the fearsome appearance of the Krampus.
Krampus cards have names
Christmas cards that have the Krampus on them are called ‘Krampuskarten.’
The Krampus comes with St. Nicholas
Since Krampusnacht is the night before the Feast of St. Nicholas, in some regions, the Krampus visits homes with St. Nicholas.
The Krampus visits for two weeks
While Krampusnacht is the official celebration, the Krampus visits and wanders the streets throughout the first two weeks of December.
Krampus in popular media
From greeting cards to movies, and even video games, the Krampus has appeared in a lot of media as the popularity of the Krampusnacht celebrations grows each year.
Why We Love Krampusnacht
We love all things spooky
Krampusnacht lets us celebrate some spookiness just before Christmas. What a great way to use Halloween decorations again.
We love celebrating folklore
Pre-Christian Alpine folk traditions are kept alive in modern-day celebrations like Krampusnacht. We love the link to our past.
It is a fun, festive holiday
The best way to get more people involved in the fun of Krampusnacht is to celebrate it ourselves. Get your best costumes ready and join in the festivities.