|Purpose||To encourage good behaviour|
Krampus is a very popular beast-like Christmas boogeyman from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Yule season who had misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards well-behaved ones with gifts.
Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children in his sack and carry them away to his lair.
Although Krampus appears in many variations, most share some common physical characteristics. He is hairy, usually brown or black, and has the cloven hooves and horns of a goat. His long pointed tongue lolls out.
Krampus carries chains, thought to symbolize the binding of the Devil by the Christian Church. He thrashes the chains for dramatic effect. The chains are sometimes accompanied with bells of various sizes. Of more pagan origins are the ruten, bundles of birch branches that Krampus carries and occasionally swats children with. The ruten have significance in pre-Christian pagan initiation rites. The birch branches are replaced with a whip in some representations. Sometimes Krampus appears with a sack or a washtub strapped to his back; this is to cart off evil children for drowning, eating, or transport to Hell.
The history of the Krampus figure stretches back to pre-Christian Germanic traditions. He also shares characteristics with the satyrs of Greek mythology. The early Catholic Church discouraged celebrations based around the wild goat-like creatures, and during the Inquisition efforts were made to stamp them out. However, Krampus figures persisted, and by the 17th century Krampus had been incorporated into Christian winter celebrations by pairing them with St. Nicholas.
In the 20th century, Austrian governments discouraged the practice. In the aftermath of the 1934 Austrian Civil War, the Krampus tradition was prohibited by the Dollfuss regime under the Fatherland Front (Vaterländische Front) and the Christian Social Party. In the 1950s, the government distributed pamphlets titled "Krampus is an Evil Man".Towards the end of the century, a popular resurgence of Krampus celebrations occurred and continues today. There has been public debate in Austria in modern times about whether Krampus is appropriate for children.
The largest celebration is in the town of Schladming in Austria. Over a thousand Krampus gather. They carry sticks and light whips to punish those who have misbehaved often targeting, in particular, the young ladies of the town. Many of the young women of the town chose to stay at home on this night, the Germanic predilection for a good whipping being somewhat exaggerated. Some are brave enough to venture out, but they remain wary of any approaches by Krampus.