We have all come to know and love the good-natured, pot-bellied Santa Claus, who on the occasion of Christmas is willing to overlook some of the misdeeds committed by his beloved children. However, there is a an evil counterpart to our grandpa Claus called Krampus. If it were up to Santa’s evil doppelganger, every wrongdoing by a naughty kid would deserve some of the meanest forms of punishment imaginable.
Long before parents began coaxing their wards into good behavior using the big fat and jolly Santa, their counterparts in the Alpine villages were threatening their kids into compliance with some of the worst possible retribution at the hands of Krampus.
This shaggy-furred, horned creature with a fistful of bound twigs is a menacing looking creature; a devilish mountain goblin who serves as an evil counterpart to the good St. Nick. His arrival is indicated by the clanging of oversize cowbells. Krampus is the threat that parents have long admonished their kids with.
Children who commit minor misdemeanors like refusing to clear the dinner table, shirking household duties and acting up in school would all be made to recollect and repent before Krampus knocked on the door, according to a gentleman named Bierbaumer from Munich, Germany.
Mr. Bierbaumer grew up in the Bavarian Alps and now heads a Munich-based club, the Sparifankerl Pass — Bavarian dialect for “Devil’s Group” — devoted to keeping the Krampus tradition alive.
“When you are a child, you know what you have done wrong the whole year. When the Krampus comes to your house, and you are a child, you are really worried about getting a hit from his switch.”
However, Krampus isn’t all bad. Apart from joining St. Nicholas, Krampus has been running through villages and towns. Though his primary duties included disciplining children, Krampus also helped rid the town of evil spirits before Christmas rolled in. However, modern day society seemed to gradually forget Krampus as the citizenry migrated from villages to cities and adopted a more civilized form of Christmas.
Still, quite a few Europeans are trying to bring back the customs that defined their childhoods and those of their parents and grandparents. One of the rituals is called Krampuslauf, a visually disturbing, but thrilling spectacle in which the fearsome seasonal beasts run through rows of adorned wooden huts in the Bavarian capital’s oldest holiday market.
These rituals might seem disturbing and sometimes downright frightening, but the howling winds of the Alpine region bring a fear that needs to be met with an equally threatening force. The ghastly looking creatures also helped parents keep their children on their best behavior in an era when an occasional spanking was considered good parenting.
For more scary photos of the demonic Krampus, head to The Atlantic.
[Image Credits | hitfix.com | Gordon Welters / The New York Times | Sean Gallup/Getty Images]