So you've heard of Santa Claus and his many important companions
and helpers -- the elves, the reindeer, Mrs. Claus, Jack
Skellington, etc. But there are plenty of other Santa Claus variants in
other cultures, and they often have their own companions. Probably the
most interesting one is St. Nicholas' Alpine pal, the Krampus.
What is the Krampus? Obviously, it's a Christmas legend, most
common in Germany, Austria, and the Alps. He's a demon or a
monster, with thick fur, horns, sharp fangs, and an obscenely long
tongue. Where St. Nick brings presents to good children, the Krampus
brings punishment to bad ones, usually around December 5th of every
year. He carries chains, bells, and a bundle full of switches, and he
is sometimes depicted carrying particularly bad children away,
presumably to eat them.
He's so popular in the Alps that Christmas festivals will feature
parades in which St. Nicholas marches along the streets, and several men
dressed in Krampus costumes will accompany him to scare the snot out of
kids and adults alike. The effect is very much like going to a
Christmas parade and having a GWAR concert break out.
In recent years, the Krampus has started to grow in popularity in
America, thanks to increasing interest in cultures and customs not
our own, as well as a desire to discover new ways of thinking about our
traditional holiday season. Did you buy that? HA HA HA HA HA, I can't
believe you fell for that. No, the Krampus is more popular because it is
the Incongruous Christmas Monster, and because we love freaky-ass
shit. Bank on it, sweet pea.
The Krampus has popped up in modern pop culture from time to time.
It has made guest appearances in "The Venture Brothers,"
"Supernatural," and "The Colbert Report," as well as showing up in
webcomics like "Something Positive" and "PvP." And there's an
Italian death metal band called Krampus, which shouldn't be too
surprising, if you know death metal bands. (And, decoy hunches adds, two different kinds of beer.)