Given that many of our guests will be skiing in Austria this Christmas, we thought we’d give you the heads up as to who this fearsome mythical creature is and the history that has accrued over the centuries about him – rather than leave you to jump out of your skin if you bump into him in person!
Krampus the Christmas Demon...
What’s he like? Krampus is St Nicholas’ evil companion, he is half-goat and half-demon, has vast horns, dark fur and cloven feet. He carries a bundle of birch twigs and depending on which sources you read, these twigs either symbolise fertility or a punishment for naughty children. He also has terrifying fangs and a tongue that lolls out to side frighteningly.
Where’s he from? He hails from a range of countries including Austria, Bavaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Northern Italy. Given this wide range of countries and cultures, the stories and myths relating to Krampus vary hugely. He predates Christian history however the Krampus we know and celebrate today mainly resembles the post-Christian descriptions. Arriving stealthily on the night before St Nicholas is due to arrive (who give out sweets and chocolate as rewards for good behavior) many towns celebrate Krampusnacht, where Krampus runs havoc through the streets, swatting children with his branches and threatening to take them to his lair.
What does a modern day Krampus do? Today, Krampus can be seen as masked men, wearing full costume preparing to compete in the Krampuslauf, which is a run usually fuelled by a Krampus schnapps, a drink that is offered to Krampus to appease him. This ‘show’ dates back hundreds of years and in Munich parents can bring their children to a preparatory class to teach them not to be terrified of the Krampus running through the streets! But beware, since adults have also been known to feel disconcerted by these creatures too! Since the 1800s Europeans have been exchanging greeting cards featuring Krampus, often in a humorous guise with rhymes and poems, looming menacingly over children. You might also recognise the name ‘Krampus’ since in 2015 Universal Pictures created a Christmas comedy/horror movie with the eponymous title.
But don’t panic, as long as you’ve been good you have nothing to worry about this Christmas… !!