We're all aware that "Krampus" is a thing. But what is it? Who is it? And where did it come from?

Krampusnacht has been around for a while. Like, "a thousand years" a while. But it's popularity in the states didn't start until about less than 5 years ago. So, it's fairly new to us. So I decided to dig deep into the history of this creepy holiday and find out what exactly it is.

What I found is that (to add to the creepiness of Krampusnacht) its origins are unknown. No one knows exactly where or when it started. The only thing we know is that it was probably based on a pagan ritual. Some anthropologists believe that Krampus is based on the Wiccan Horned God of the Witches. While others believe than it is a supernatural pagan being that was assimilated to look very similar to the Christian devil once the Catholics got a hold of it.

Johannes Simon / Stringer / Getty Images

So, yeah. Creepy looking horned dude is even super creepier when you don't even know where he came from. It's like when that one weird person shows up at your Christmas party and starts telling loud and inappropriate stories and drinking all the eggnog and everyone is like "...They came with YOU, right?" "No, I thought they were with you?" "No....Who IS that??" But no one does anything about it because it's Christmas, so whatever.

The only origin that we can pin down is that Krampusnacht most likely started in the Alpine regions of Germany. Because of course it did.

Wherever this creepy-looking thing came from, it has a purpose. It was originally St. Nicholas' buddy. While St. Nick brought presents to all the good little boys and girls on Dec 5th, Krampus punished the naughty kids on the same night. He would chase them down and beat them with sticks, and sometimes steal naughty children, put them in his sack, and take them to his lair to do "unspeakable things" to them. What kind of things? I don't know, they're "unspeakable"!

Essentially, this demon-like creature comes out once and year and scares the naughty out of you. And it seems to be working. I mean, look at that face! That'll put the fear of goodness into you... (And scare the sh*t out of you...)

Johannes Simon / Stringer / Getty Images

Throughout time, Krampus slowly started to disappear because the Catholics thought it was too frightening. (Ya think?) So St. Nick started bringing coal to naughty children. Which is still kind of a gift when you think about it. Especially in the late 19th/ early 20th century. Coal keeps you warm. So if you were naughty it was like "No presents for you! Only comfort and warmth! Haha! Take that!"

Also, after WWII a lot of Europe thought that Krampus was a creation of Social Democrats. Okay...don't know when pagan demons became political, but okay...(To be fair, Germany probably had to put a lot of things 'on hold' after WWII. On top of doing what they did, they didn't need to add "demon running around ruining Christmas" to that list.)

But Krampus has made a comeback in the 21st century! Krampusnacht/Krampuslauf is back in Europe and it's a BIG THING. People make their own Krampus costumes and carve their own wooden Krampus masks for this event. They go out, get sh*tfaced, put on the suit, and parade around town with a bunch of other drunken Krampuses trying to find naughty children to steal or beat with sticks. It's fun! (And not traumatizing for your child at all.)

Sean Gallup / Staff / Getty Images

Krampusnacht is also starting to become big here in the US as well. In 2015, Clintonville, Ohio held it's first Krampus parade, which is going three years strong this year! Even Seattle and Philadelphia have hopped on board the Krampus train in the past few years.

So now you know who Krampus is. It's a creepy, hair demon, with horns, claws, bells, and sticks. It's scary. It's fun. And it's a great incentive to be a good kid all year.

And I will admit, I kinda got into the Krampus spirit this year...

Chynna Hall

There's also a Krampus Haunted House in Canton, Ohio if you want to wet your Krampus whistle...

 

 

(Sources: NationalGeographic, HistoryThings)