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Krampus, A Downright Scary Christmas Tradition

Even if you haven’t seen the movie, Krampus is the scariest of Bavarian Christmas traditions. Find out all about him and how to see a show during the season.

Christmastime in Germany is full of charm. All over the country the Christmas markets are going strong, especially the famous ones like Rothenburg ob Tauber. With the smell of sugary almonds roasting and the wisps of steam climbing out of your gluhwein mug, you happily look out for St. Nicholas and hope he gives you some sweets.  However, that’s not the only thing that Bavarian children keep an eye out for. There’s another that makes his way to the markets, the devilish Krampus.

Krampus is as scary as they come.

St. Nicholas’ Dark Brother Follows Him Through the Crowd

Said to have originated in the 1600s to counteract all the spoiling of children, the legend of Krampus was created as a balance. Children needed to make sure they were good, not naughty. Not every child deserved to have his shoes or stockings filled with sweets, some children were bad. Krampus would parade through the town looking for these miscreants, chase them down, and give them a good swat or pelt them with bits of coal.

Krampus playing with fire.

Krampus is a scary dude. When I saw him just the other night, he smelled like goat. Really!  Come to find out, he is supposed to be half goat half devil. His blue eyes bored into you looking for some guilt that he could expose. His comrades were all pretty scary, some looking much more devilish than others.

Krampus, scary and fun for kids of all ages.

In the marketplace, they put on quite the show. Dressed in their elaborate costumes of fake fur, real horns, large obnoxious-sounding bells, and interesting footwear, the group of Christmas devils used fire and loud noises, clomping, and scowling to exert their power. 

Even though they are meant to scare the children, I saw many of them go up to a small child, hold his or her hand, and whisper things about staying good so that he wouldn’t have to become the mean Krampus that he can be. With wide eyes, the children just nodded and moms and dads stood tentatively by in case tears ensued, but they didn’t.

Krampus visits Vilseck.

After the show the Krampus and his entourage wandered, scraping through the Christmas market looking for guilty bad boys and girls. They would stop and scare adults, but were very mild when it came to anyone under about 15.  Everyone was laughing, even taunting the monsters. It was all in good fun, and then it was back to being merry, and shopping, and drinking gluhwein.

Would you like to experience the scariness of Christmas with a Krampus?

Check dates and locations for these popular Krampus groups:


Oberfalzer Schlosssteufeln

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

Krampus A Scary Christmas Tradition - Learn how and when to see a Krampus show in Bavaria during the Christmas season.


Sally@Toddlers on Tour

Tuesday 6th of December 2016

If that doesn't scare the kids into being good, nothing will. Interesting to see some unusual Christmas traditions that have developed in other parts of the world.

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 6th of December 2016

Sally, That's the idea! Not surprisingly the kids clamor to see Krampus just as much as Santa. Go figure.

Lara Dunning

Monday 5th of December 2016

Those costumes look like something out of Hellraiser! Yikes! That scary face would make me want to be good all year.

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 6th of December 2016

Lara, They sure do put on a great show!

Different Shores

Monday 5th of December 2016

Bloody hell, that thing is terrifying! They really make an effort with the costumes. I love this post #TheWeeklyPostcard

Corinne Vail

Monday 5th of December 2016

Krampus is love him! So strange. I hope you get to see him someday.

Angie (FeetDoTravel)

Sunday 4th of December 2016

I watched a movie about the Christmas Krampus so was aware of his existence by goodness me, he really is one scary and ugly looking dude isn't he! Wow, what a performance to have seen, I would actually like to have witnessed this and your photos are stunning. Thank you for such an interesting post and a different take on Christmas #TheWeeklyPostcard

Corinne Vail

Sunday 4th of December 2016

Angie, Krampus is not my favorite Christmas character, but it is interesting that he is Bavarian tradition, and we did enjoy the show.


Sunday 4th of December 2016

I've lived in Bavaria now for 4 years and only last year I saw them for the first time. They are definitely scary AF! Plus it didn't help that we heard all over the news last year that in Austria some Krampus hurt some people pretty badly, one even breaking the arm of a little girl. But it would be fun to see them put on a show with fire. Our just walked through town making noise and scaring people. #TheWeeklyPostcard

Corinne Vail

Sunday 4th of December 2016

Lolo, The group we saw go all over and do little shows. It's pretty neat. We enjoyed it.