The Krampus, where did it come from? Where did it originate? I can tell you he’s very much alive in Austria & Croatia! Associated within the Germanic belief systems with St.Nikolaus, same origin of the North American Santa Claus. I haven’t been able to find any information attaching such a creature to Pagan roots. For such a thing to be connected to Christmas & Saint Nicholas, by dragging the bad children to Hell – would foretell Christian roots. They have the Devil, so it wouldn’t be far off to scare the children with Krampus, now would it? I think people often overlook just how creative Christians can be. Christian ideas about the appearance of devils and demons most certainly played a role in the iconography of the Krampus, and why not? Christians love the Devil even if they don’t like to admit it, that’s why he’s been such a huge figure in art and literature for the past 700 years. Krampus picked up pagan attributes because demons were generally depicted that way. Pagans don’t believe in demons or a place called Hell – so as far as I’m concerned this new movie coming out just before Christmas is going to pull a dark curtain over our beautiful Pagan ways. It’s frustrating that once again, people are being misled by the movie industry as so many will believe it as a Pagan legend for it is being mis-represented that way. Krampus doesn’t resemble Pan or Cernunnos, nor does he act like them. Krampus is simply a deterrent against bad behavior, and is really no different than the far creepier Elf on a Shelf. In folklore the Krampus serves a couple of different roles. In many instances he’s an assistant to St. Nicholas. It’s Krampus who carries the toys and serves as St. Nick’s driver.
Cara from Austria writes…
I grew up in the Alps of Austria and know Krampus well. I have never ever heard of him as companion of the Christkindl. Only of St. Nikolaus. We celebrate the Saint on Dec. 6, whereas the day of Krampus is the 5th of December. Usually they come together in order to give sweets to the children (and call them by their evil-doings, as you described so well). We have Kramperllauf (runnings of Krampus) through the alpine towns from end of November until the weekend of St. Nikolaus. There are up to 900 Kramperl (many with hand-carved wooden masks, as shown in the pics, which are very heavy btw) running through the streets, with fire, drums and so on. There has always – always – to be at least one Saint Nicholas in those runnings, he leads the procession in order to keep the hell’s spirits at bay. Krampus is always under control of the Saint and (sometimes) his two or three fragile angels beside the Saint. Krampus traditionally wears chains and is – in his chains – bound by St. Nikolaus. That is the reason, why we do not have to fear Krampus at all. And that is the reason, why parents allow Krampus to show up to their children. Children are told, that they do not have to fear, thanks to our Lord, or – more figuratively for younger children – St. Nikolaus as he is authorized by the Lord.
Christkindl is actually on the one hand our Lord himself. We celebrate his birth 24th of Dec. evening. There is no Santa Claus in our country around 24th of December. This is all about Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the cradle, ox and sheep and shepherds and 3 kings. We do not understand Santa Claus on the birth of Jesus, but have him adopted in the last years (the Coca Cola version) in our shops and christmas-lightings. But we really do not understand him on that date. As to bringing the gifts, we imagine an angel (adult and with wings) as the servant of Baby Jesus. That angel is functioning under the name Christkindl as well. Santa Claus (American version, 25 th/Dec) seems to stem from northern Europe traditions. We do not fully understand that. And the Reindeers we do not understand as well, but like it.