Krapus is the stuff of nightmares. His name comes from the German and is translated as ‘claw’. This counterpart to jolly St. Nicholas is the son of the Underworld Goddess Hel from Norse mythology.
Human in size, he traditionally bears a dark and hideous mane, his body covered in matted fur and hellish burning eyes. With a head possessing horns and the all too familiar sharp fangs from his gaping mouth, his is a frightening visage during this holiday season.
Shaking his bells and chains, he hurries down the streets and lanes swatting at children with his birch bundle and peeks into windows in search of those who were naughty not nice.
Christmas celebrations in Germany begin to get underway in early December; the 6th of the month is known as Krampusnacht or Krampus Night. A shoe or a boot was traditionally left on the doorstep by the child of the house in hopes that it would be filled with goodies. To peek under the shade was risky business as Krampus was about and he knew all to well if that child had misbehaved. The family would explain to the quivering youngster that "there would be no last minute reprieve and it would be down, down to the Underworld with you if Krampus discovers how naughty you have been!" Alas! Krampus night was forbidden eventually by the Catholic Church, not because it was frightening for children, but due to its pagan origins.
However, never fear, the tradition has been revived in parts of Germany and the Festival of Krampus is alive and well. Children are still subject to a light swat and a scooping up but the Underworld condemnation has been replaced by feasting and merriment.