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Krampus, Companion of St. Nicholas

Spreading Fear and Dread Each Year


Krampus, Companion of St. Nicholas

Radko Krampus

© Barb Crews
Krampus is an evil spirit, a minor devil, most often clad in frightening wild fur. Waving his long tail behind him and flashing his equally long red tongue, he rattles a noisy chain as he reminds the town children to be good.

On Krampus Days, parents and children gather in the village square to pelt Krampus with snowballs. The festivities continue on December 6th with the arrival of St. Nicholas. Dressed in religious regalia, he wears a papal hat and a red robe brimmed in white. His snowy-white hair and beard flow gracefully as he carried a shepherd's staff in one hand and a bell in the other. Krampus, carrying a bundle of twigs with which to punish naughty children, is tethered to St. Nicholas as they make their way through the village. St. Nicholas patiently visits each home, asking the children to sing him a song about Christmas and the coming birth of the Christ child. Once satisfied, he bestows a gift to each obliging child.

Upon departing, he blesses the home and all who reside within, ringing his bell to ward off the evil spirits that travel with Krampus. While St. Nicholas deals with the good girls and boys, Krampus is there to give the bad ones a little scare.

According to legend Krampus sometimes briefly escapes his chains each season, causing extra fright among the naughty children. Spotting his ferocious appearance and handful of switches, they scurry from his path to the safety of home.

Krampus traces his roots to pagan times, but remains an entrenched part of Austrian Christmas traditions.

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