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.
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 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.
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.
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: