Krampusnacht 2022: History, Significance and Celebrations

Krampusnacht is annually celebrated on 5th December, one night before the Feast of St. Nicholas, it is a night during which people dress up as devil Krampus and chase away naughty and misbehaved children through the streets for this Christmas season. 

The children are told off by the Krampus and given bundles of ‘ruten,’ a cluster of twigs, so they don’t forget the Krampus after he leaves. Krampus symbolizes bad santa whose job is to fix naughty children before Christmas. 

This holiday is primarily celebrated in Germany, other European countries and Austrailia. This holiday is becoming increasingly popular in America as well, because it captures a little bit of the excitement and spookiness of Halloween, right before the Christmas season. 

Event Krampusnacht
Date December 5, 2022
Day Monday
Significance It is the night when people dress up as the devil Krampus and chase naughty and misbehaving children through the streets during the Christmas season.
Observed by Europe


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Krampusnacht History: 

The origin of Krampus is mostly unknown, but most anthropologists agree that the tradition is pre-Christian, going back to pagan mythology. One authority on the subject believes that Krampus goes as far back as the Wiccan deity of the Horned God of the Witches. Another anthropologist, John J. Honigmann wrote, “Krampus derives from a pagan supernatural who was assimilated to the Christian devil.” Our knowledge of the pre-Christian pagan era of Europe is pretty limited as there are not much historical records left, and their places of worship and symbols and rites were often taken over and assimilated into Christian traditions in the missionaries attempt to wipe the pagan traditions out entirely. 

But we know one thing for sure that Krampus, the half-man, half-goat counterpart to St. Nicholas, has been apart of folklore in Austria’s Alpine region for hundreds of years now. Krampus origins begin with pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. Later, they became part of Christian traditions in which St. Nicholas visited children to reward them on and soon after his menacing partner would also visit naughty kids to punish them. This day was known as Krampusnacht, or “Krampus night,” when adults might dress up as Krampus and visit children’s houses to give them a chill. 

Originally, Krampus was a purely pagan creation, said to be the son of Hel from Norse mythology. In the alp-nations, it was believed that Krampus and his perchten (army of ill-tempered elves) roamed the area causing mischief and mayhem to whomever they encountered. While the elves took particular delight in whipping lazy folks, unruly youngsters, and drunks, Krampus abducted miscreants altogether. As the centuries passed, Christianity supplanted paganism and Krampus was given a new role in society as St. Nicholas sidekick, kind of an evil Santa for naughty kids. 

While the event and all associations with the beast was suppressed first by the Catholic Church and then by fascists, interest in Krampusnacht, and in Krampus, has been enjoying a resurgence in recent times. Today, Krampusnacht is celebrated in many places across Europe, and has even become popular in the United States. In 2013, over 200 Krampuses participated in Austria’s first ever annual national Krampusnacht. In Clintonville, Ohio, on December 5th of 2015, the first Krampus parade was held and the residents have begun to make it a regular tradition. On both the west and east coasts, in Seattle and Philadelphia, other Krampus parades are held to signify the beginning of the Christmas season. 


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Krampusnacht Significance: 

Krampusnacht is a celebration of the devil Krampus, who is believed to be a mythical creature that is half-man, half-goat. He is depicted as being hairy with large horns, a goat’s cloven hooves, red eyes, and fangs. However, the depictions of the Krampus vary from region to region. In some depictions, the Krampus is shown wearing chains, and the people wearing Krampus costumes often thrash around in the chains for maximum effect. The chains are to represent the binding of the Devil by Jesus Christ, in Christian mythology. 

The Krampus carries bundles of ‘ruten’ or twigs which he uses to swat misbehaving children. For the celebrations, these bundles are handed to families so children remember the threat of the Krampus throughout the year and behave themselves. In countries where Krampusnacht is celebrated, St. Nicholas gives gifts to the children, but if they misbehave, the Krampus arrives to take the gifts away and give the children coal and ruten instead. Throughout the night on December 5, men dress up as the Krampus, drink alcohol, and celebrate on the streets by scaring away children. 

Costumed characters are a central part of all Krampus celebrations. These characters include: Krampus, Saint Nikolaus, the woodsman, angels, and the old woman. As Krampus is half-goat and half-demon, the costume normally shares certain primary elements such as: a fur suit, horns, demon mask, and hooves. Props commonly used are; bells, a birch switch, basket worn on the back, chains, walking staff, and a horse hair or hemp flogger. The most traditional Krampus costumes are made from goat/sheep skins, animal horns, and hand carved masks. 

On Krampusnacht, the fabled Krampus unleashes his reign of terror: beatings with sticks, kidnappings and even drowning are typical consequences of ending up on the naughty list. While the purpose of this holiday was to instil fear and good behaviour in little-ones, today the event has become more of an excuse to honour the alpine Halloween-meets-Christmas tradition with good old fashioned merrymaking: great food, ever flowing drinks, elaborate costumes and fanfare in abundance. 


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Krampusnacht Celebrations: 

A winter wonderland with a wicked twist, the key events include the Krampus parade and Krampus run where, taking on the form of Krampus, men in their thousands pour into the city’s street intoxicated to race one another. Like Krampus himself, his namesake parade is far from sweet and tidy. Set up as a free event, it gets busy quickly. Many parade clubs spend months creating parade costumes, marching formations, and party plans so arrive early to secure a good viewing spot.  

If you’re thinking to dress up for the celebrations then you really should, there is no half-in half-out with the getup. For men, masks have to be wooden and terrifying. Horns, fangs and bloodshot eyes are typical, and clothes traditionally have to be made from goat or sheep skin to resemble the legendary descriptions of how Krampus really dressed.  

Ladies can also join in by becoming ​”Frau Perchta”. Equalling the elaborate look of the Krampuses, the outfits for Frau Perchta should include ugly masks, dishevelled ivory hair, and long gothic dresses.

Food and drinks gave always brought people together and they have also always been an important part for the celebrations of Krampusnacht. So it is time to treat yourself with some delicious food especially some authentic Austrian or German food and drinks as a way to offer tribute to the festival. 

Most Searched FAQs on Krampusnacht: 

1. When is Krampusnacht celebrated? 

Krampusnacht is annually celebrated on 5th December, one night before the Feast of St. Nicholas. 

2. What is the purpose of Krampusnacht? 

The Krampus is used as a warning for children to behave themselves throughout the coming year. It is also just a fun excuse for adults to let loose and party! 

3. What countries celebrate Krampusnacht? 

Krampus is recognized in several countries such as Austria, Slovenia, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. The celebration is also gaining recognition in the United States and other parts of Europe.

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