Mythical Krampus Comes to Life at Christmas
Krampus is the yin to Santa's yang. According to German folklore this holiday devil is a dark partner to St. Nicholas (Santa Claus), a mythical creature that brings gifts to good children, over the winter period of Christmas. In most cultures that celebrate this winter holiday, it is believed that children who have not been good throughout the year will not receive gifts from Santa Claus.
In other cultures however, the folklore has an added dimension. In addition to not being rewarded with presents, those children are also punished. Since Santa Claus who is innately good, can't punish the children himself. He leaves that task to the holiday devil, Krampus.
According to folk legends told in countries like Finland and Austria, Krampus whips them with metal chains and then drags them to hell for further punishment.
Often depicted as a demon-creature with cloven hooves, horns and a horrifying tongue, Krampus goes by many names, including: Certa, Schmutzli, Pelznickel and Klaubauf. This dark figure can also be depicted as a smartly dressed gentleman who wears all black or is a human-like hairy creature.
Like St. Nicholas, Krampus can be traced back to pagan folklore. Krampus' mischief is intended to dissuade children from misdeeds and malice.