You’d better watch out. He is more like SATAN than SANTA. But there’s no mistaking the two. One is a jolly rotund fellow with a fluffy white beard. The other is a menacing shaggy-haired Eastern-European monstrosity with hideous curling horns and huge red tongue. They both do carry a sack though. Not for the same reason. Oh no. KRAMPUS pulls off his evil-opposite schtick with a little more irony than that.
KRAMPUS is part of a carrot-and-stick approach to children’s behavior. Good kids are rewarded with lovely gifts from Father Christmas’s magic sack. Naughty kids get a visit from KRAMPUS who stuffs them into a sack. With much malicious glee.
The legend is clearly designed to frighten the very marrow out of any child. "That’s right Frederick, if you have not been good all year, you will find yourself carted off to Krampus HQ where all the naughty children go to be punished." These poor kidnapped kids are chastised severely for their wanton transgressions and then eaten. Disturbingly, nobody seems to call the police. In fact the grown-ups seem to encourage the repulsive monster in his horrific activities.
But he’s not all bad. In some regions and traditions KRAMPUS does actually bring gifts. Okay, so they are evil gifts for horrible people, but it’s the thought that counts isn’t it? If you are an adult who despises children, this helpful beast will supply such practical gifts as whips, chains, big sticks and possibly even hideous homework with which to punish and bludgeon the little’uns.
With his goat-like appearance and wild behavior, KRAMPUS bears more than a hint of devilish satyr PAN. The Christian church was very cross about all this apparent devil-worship going on. But for once a pagan beastie managed to get the better of Jesus. Despite the severe warnings of priests and saints his brand of malevolent judgment was just too popular. Krampus was immune to syncretion, evaded bans and dodged every decree that the church could throw at him. A very rare instance of an ancient pagan legend surviving Christianiy unscatched. KRAMPUS shenanigans continue to this day.
In many European countries, December 5th is Krampusnacht, a sort of Hallowe’en redux featuring groups of often inebriated Krampuses (Krampi?) roaming the streets and frightening people. The Night of Krampus is — as its schlock-horror movie name suggests — a gloriously extreme costume parade complete with shockingly ugly make-up and props such as rusty chains and birch switches. Tradition dictates that these ertsatz Krampuses may only be warded off by a token offering of schnapps. This slightly unsavory habit has now passed across to the USA where it now enjoys a bizarre notoriety. Krampus costumes are now available from all evil retailers.