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Years ago St. Nick’s job was split - while the jolly old elf delivered the goods, an evil, goat-horned spirit called the Krampus brought switches and bad dreams to the boys and girls of Austria, southern Germany, Switzerland, and far northern Italy.

The Krampus was initially a side note to the St. Nicholas story, a goat-faced eminence noir who accompanied St. Nick on his December gift-giving tours. ‘Nicholas and Krampus would come to the houses together,’ Kapper said. ‘Nicholas gave the children presents and Krampus beat them.’ But in the last 200 years, Krampus has slowly developed an identity of his own - he even has his own day - December 5.

Krampus is variously depicted as horned, shaggy, bestial, or demonic. In many depictions the Krampus looks like popular images of the Devil, complete with red skin, cloven hooves, and short horns.

Children are commonly scared into sleeping during the time St. Nicolas brings gifts by being told that if they are awake, Krampus will think they have been bad, and will take them away in his sack.

Everyone knows that Santa keeps lists of good and bad children. If you are good you get a visit from Santa and he leaves toys. However, in turn-of-the-century Europe, if you were bad you got a visit from KRAMPUS!

Originating in Germany and the Teutonic countries, KRAMPUS acted as Santa's servant. As time passed KRAMPUS developed a rather malicious disposition and became almost an Anti-Santa.

While jolly St. Nick delivered gifts to the good, KRAMPUS gave coal and rocks to the naughty, beat the bad with switches, and if a child was especially naughty, he would shackle them in chains, stuff them in a bucket and throw them into the fiery pits of hell!

Beginning in the 1880's KRAMPUS appeared on cards that were sent on the Eve Of St. Nick and was depicted as a black dwarf dressed in a fur vest, Moorish clothes and a devil mask or horns.

As time passed his feet were replaced with claws or hooves (sometimes one of each) and his body itself became covered in fur and he wore little or no clothing. Sometimes a common "devil" type tail is also added. Eventually his tongue became obscenely long as did his horns.

On some occasions cards were sent not with a picture of KRAMPUS but with a simple picture of his switch or chains and the phrase "Gruss Vom Krampus" (Greetings From Krampus) or "Brav Sein!" (Be Good).

By the 1960's KRAMPUS became more associated with adults and sex (much like a St. Valentine's Day devil) and postcards of that time often portray him leering at, and sometimes carrying away, nubile young women.

Do YOU believe in Krampus? Be good!

Happy Howl-i-days!


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