Krampus is a mythical figure who, in some traditions, is said to be an assistant to Saint Nicholas during the Christmas season. The two characters are often depicted together in various European traditions, such as in Austria, Germany, and other Alpine countries.
The Traditions of Krampus
According to Alpine folklore, while Saint Nicholas provides well-behaved children with small gifts-such as oranges, chocolate, walnuts, and dried fruit-Krampus goes around with a birch rod or a pitchfork to punish the naughty ones. In other versions, Krampus carries around a sack to transport them to the underworld.
Krampus’ name originates from the German word “krampen” which means “claw” and his roots stretch all the way back to pre-Christian pagan folklore. During the 12th century, the Catholic church tried to ban Krampus celebrations because they believed it was a form of devil worship, but their plans to abolish it never materialize.
On the other hand, Saint Nicholas (the origin of modern Santa Claus) was a real person who lived from 270 to 343. He was from the city of Myra in modern-day Turkey and lived during a very turbulent time in Roman history. He was a Christian bishop that was known for his lavish generosity and secret gift-giving.
His most famous gift was dropping off a sack of gold through the window of a small house belonging to a poor man with three daughters. The money was enough to pay for their dowries, effectively saving them from being forced into prostitution.