Who The Heck Is Krampus?

In a weird twist, a Christmas horror movie killed at the box office this weekend and took in about $16.3 million.  Not bad for a film that sounds like it’s about an uncomfortable time of the month.  Even stranger is that, for a lot of North American audiences, Krampus is completely out of left field for them with people totally oblivious to who he is and what his story is.  Well saddle up, there’s lots to learn.

  • Krampus, the 2015 film starring Adam Scott, is one of dozens of times Krampus has been depicted on film
  • Krampus has appeared in Scooby Doo and American Dad
  • There’s a 1969 Austrian film called Der Krampus
  • Krampus comes from German/European folklore dating back to the 13th century, possibly the 11th



  • Krampus’ true origins are most likely pre-Christian
  • When Christianity became the norm throughout the region, the legend of Krampus adapted.  Now Krampus was depicted in chains, to show the devil being chained by the Church
  • Krampus is sometimes believed to be the son of the Norse deity Hel, who herself is the daughter of Loki
  • Krampus accompanies St. Nicholas.  St. Nick gives presents to good children while Krampus punishes the bad



  • Krampus comes from the German word for claw.  He’s said to be about 7 feet tall, have a whip tongue and goat-like horns, hooves for feet and carry a bundle of birch switches which he uses to beat children
  • Some stories say one of his feet is a hoof, the other a bear-like claw
  • Some children aren’t just beaten, they’re taken in a box or barrel back to his lair where they will continue to be punished for a year until they repent



  • December 5th is Krampusnacht, the night Krampus heads out to take care of business before Nikolastaug, December 6th, when Santa gives out goodies
  • Parades are still held in alpine countries with men dressing up as Krampus, wandering the streets and generally having a drunken good time
  • More than 1200 people a year gather in Schladming, Styria for a Krampuslauf, a schnapps-fueled Krampus parade