Once upon a time good old Saint Nick wasn’t so free with the doling out of presents to everyone, in fact he was more well known for beating the tar out of little children who couldn’t answer his Bible questions (an adult dressed as the blessed saint and sternly listened to children answer his theological queries, giving small gifts to the ones who got it right and a swift beating to the ones who messed up). Not only was the jolly one rather a buzzkill, but he kept some rather unsavory company.
Santa had a variety of questionable sidekicks in various countries, but one that hasn’t faded into complete obscurity and who is downright horrifying is Krampus, a devil creature with a tongue that could be accused of looking more than a little obscene. See, Krampus didn’t just spank naughty children, he literally stuffed them in a basket and hauled them off to hell. MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE.
Krampus has seen a slight resurgence in popularity recently, possibly because his iconography is too bizarre to ignore. December 6 is Krampusnacht and there are reports that it’s becoming more popular in Europe. Santa’s darker half originally seemed to serve as the “bad guy” to separate Santa from some of his less crowd pleasing severe qualities that were originally associated with the saint. Part devil, part pagan symbolism, Krampus is a frightening reminder of when celebrations were a little wilder and less family friendly.
Read more about Santa and his rougher, rowdier friends in Bad Santas: and Other Creepy Christmas Characters by Paul Hawkins