Krampus’ Viking Origins: The Stuff of Nightmares
Krampus’ Viking origins are well known, but just like mead and drinking horns, the Yuletide child snatcher is making a comeback in recent years.
In Austria and increasingly more locations around modern Europe, the Krampus Parade provides grade A nightmare fodder for all the children of the village (and let’s face it – the adults, too). A demonic face with bloodshot eyes is somehow just the tip of the creepy iceberg on this hybrid goat hellspawn.
New and Old Krampus Traditions
The new Krampus parade trend is actually a re-instating of the 1500 year old Pagan tradition of dressing all the young men of the town up as Krampus to run madly through the streets to scare away winter’s evil spirits. The “Krampus Run” was originally called the Krampuslauf, and is now especially popular in Germany, Austria, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and in some very brave corners of the US.
You may also be following the Krampus pop culture hype of late, which has seen the goatskin clad demon manifest in comic books and films. Over the years his mythos has become intertwined with that of Santa, who is thought to be descended from the Scandinavian Odin – also a winter spirit hunter. Historically, Krampus comes around on the night of December 5th, travelling around with Saint Nick. While Santa rewards the good kids, Krampus is there to beat or steal the bad ones.
As with all old traditions, the way we celebrate the coming of Krampus each year says as much about the modern world as it does the ancient one. In Alpine Villages where the Krampus Parade is fiercely loved by residents, the influx of Syrian and Afghan refugees worries some that the festivities will be incredibly frightening to newcomers. Rather than cancel, efforts are being made to educate the refugees on the Krampus tradition so they can take part.
Krampus in Norse Mythology
The name Krampus comes form the Germanic krampen, which means claw. In Norse mythology, he’s the son of the Norse god of the underworld, Hel. Even though he was around before Christmas was celebrated, he’s now become a terrifying answer to our overly sweet modern Christmas traditions. The Catholic Church tried at some point to ban European Krampus parades due to Krampus’ resemplance to the devil, but as you can probably guess, that just made them become all the more popular.
So, have you been good this year?