A male Austrian faerie called Krampus is said to be very ill-tempered. He is a bit like an elf of Christmastime, but unlike the "Santa's elves" type who love children, this one specifically exists to punish children who have been bad, or just ones that he sees fit to punish. Offering it kindness will simply make it leave without harming you; trying to fight it will only bring on misfortune.

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.)

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