The INSIDER Summary:
• Countries like Austria and Germany celebrate “St. Nicholas” on December 6th, and have a Krampuslauf, or Krampus Run, the night before.
• Krampus is Saint Nich’s helper, but he is unbelievably scary: so scary that he was actually banned a few times — alternatively by the Catholic Church and the Austrian government.
I have a vivid memory of my friend hanging off a door horizontally, her nails digging into the wooden frame as a giant, fur-covered beast with demonic red eyes and giant fangs pulled her into the cold December night.
A few feet away, a girl was sobbing while a horned monster whipped her with branches.
Kids everywhere were screaming and crying, desperately seeking safety.
We were eight years old, and the whole thing was arranged by our parents.
Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night, is an ancient Austrian tradition that is also celebrated in Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic. Basically, Santa, or Sankt Nikolaus (St. Nicholas), comes around with his devils (or Krampuses) in tow.
He is there to determine whether kids have been naughty or nice — but in this case, being naughty has severe consequences: a run-in with his demon assistants.
Let’s take a look at this insane tradition.
This is Krampus. Santa's little helper is a terrifying demonic beast that helps him deal with naughty kids. He literally exists to scare children straight.
Anyone can dress up as a Krampus. The wooden masks are typically handmade, super intricate, and absolutely terrifying.
Increasingly, Krampus Runs have had issues with drunken Krampuses getting a little too into character by chasing people across town and beating them with sticks. The scary thing is that you never know who's hiding behind those masks.
Legend has it that their chains symbolise a binding to the devil by the Christian Church, and the birch branches hail from ancient pagan initiation rites.
Krampus is the opposite of St. Nicholas, a kindly old man who rewards well-behaved kids with candy and gifts.
Krampus is so insanely scary that he was actually banned a few times -- alternatively by the Catholic Church and the Austrian government, and later during WWII for allegedly being a product of Social Democrats.
In fact, Krampus is so terrifying that one Austrian town warned visitors ahead of time, so that they wouldn't be afraid when drunken monsters were seen running through the streets.
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