A Krampus story: Austria's terrifying Christmas tradition

"For centuries, Austrian children have cowered in fear at Krampus, a horned beast who plays 'bad cop' to 'good cop' Santa. Krampus' job is to punish children who misbehave." (Via History Channel)

Krampus is the Christmas version of the scared-straight program. Whereas Santa leaves coal for naughty kids, Krampus is known to prefer corporal punishment — he beats naughty children with branches, throws them in a sack and drags them back to his lair. (Via YouTube / Zero Point Zero Production, Inc.)

As ABC Australia explains it, Krampus is a pre-Christian figure of Germanic folklore and is well-known in the Alpine regions of central Europe.

Many images of Krampus show a hairy beast covered in fur with a long red tongue, horns, a tail, one foot and a hoof. As BuzzFeed shows us, he is the thing of nightmares and frightening postcards.

Tales of Krampus say he walks the streets with St. Nick or by himself the night before St. Nicholas' Day — Dec. 6. But around that time, grown men in Austria take it upon themselves to ensure the legend lives on by dressing as Krampus themselves.

The often alcohol-fueled Krampus Night draws thousands and gives people a chance to terrorize children. Sorry, little girl. You can't unsee that. (Via International Business Times)

If there's any question about the popularity of Krampus Night, take a look this. It's like a Michael Jordan / Chicago Bulls intro video. (Via YouTube / Flexo91012)

But according to the Austrian Times, Krampus wasn't always so well-received.

"Krampus festivities were banned by Chancellor Dollfuss after the Austrian Civil War, and as recent as 2006, an Austrian child psychologist argued the violence and demonic imagery associated with Krampus celebrations was not suitable for children and there should be a ban on Krampus."

But the tradition continues and has even made its way to the United States.

A writer for The Christian Science Monitor says, "Some in the US see him as an alternative to the overly commercial, cheer-filled version of Christmas, balancing out the constant reminder that this is the 'season of giving.'"

We'll leave you with a video from Stephen Colbert, who suggests a new way to greet others during the holiday season.

"The next time someone tells you 'Seasons Greetings' instead of 'Merry Christmas,' remind them that Krampus knows when they're naughty, when they're nice and when they're showering alone." (Via Comedy Central)

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