Who or what is Krampus and what does it have to do with Christmas?

Krampus is a figure in Central European folklore especially popular in Austria and Germany. Historically, this character was used to scare children into behaving well. According to these legends, Krampus is a half goat, half demon depicted with dark fur, horns, fangs, and a long tongue. He comes to children's houses on December 5th, the eve of Saint Nicolaus Day. In some stories he actually accompanies Saint Nicolaus as his counterpart. While Saint Nicolaus rewards well-behaved children with candy and treats, Krampus brings punishment to misbehaving children. Some legends claim that Krampus leaves birch branches with which parents can switch their naughty children. Other legends state that Krampus himself will kidnap the naughty children and beat, kill, or even eat them. Much like the boogeyman myth, parents have used the story of Krampus to scare their children into good behavior.

While this myth has faded as a parenting technique, it has experienced a recent surge in popularity with parades known as Krampuslauf (or Krampus runs), costume parties, and even a novel and movie. Adults dress up in scary costumes and drink alcohol during these Krampus celebrations, recalling the legend's pagan origins.

Of course during the Christmas season, our attention should be drawn to the birth of Christ. What a contrast there is between Him and the mythical figure of Krampus! While Krampus arrives at people's houses as a powerful monster to bring punishment for children's misbehavior, Jesus arrived as a powerless infant to bring forgiveness and take upon Himself the punishment for our misbehavior. Krampus rules through fear and retribution, but God rules with mercy and justice, offering His empowering Holy Spirit to help us overcome our sin. The joy of Jesus's incarnation and what He accomplished on the cross and through His resurrection should far outweigh any sense of fun to be had recalling a scary historical myth like Krampus.

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