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No need to be afraid of the hairy monster with big teeth and huge horns found on the streets in early December. Odds are, it’s just Krampusnacht and it’s time for this little Christmas Devil to be celebrated! 

History of Krampusnacht

Translated in English to “Krampus Night” and associated with the Feast of St. Nicholas, this day is a tradition believed to have started in Germany many centuries ago. The day has grown in scope and is now celebrated throughout many European cities as a not-so-jolly opportunity to punish naughty children! 

Krampus is a mythical character, appearing as a sort of a horned, devil-ish monster who sometimes has a scraggly, hairy body as well as long tongue. Sometimes the monster is depicted wearing chains. While the origins of Krampus may go all the way back to the 7th century, it wasn’t until the 17th century when the character was paired with St. Nicholas in Christian winter festivities in Europe. The creature has been used as a means to scare children into behaving ahead of the Christmas holiday, sometimes carrying a bundle of twigs used to swat children. Krampus may also have the power to take away gifts given by St. Nicholas, replacing them with coal.

Krampusnacht takes place the day before the Feast of St. Nicholas. In many cities throughout Europe, men will dress up in costumes as Krampus and roam through the streets to frighten children. In some traditions, Krampus is also accompanied by an angel or fairy-like character, along with St. Nicholas.

How to Celebrate Krampusnacht

Get involved with this European tradition that dates back centuries! Check out some of these ideas for celebrating Krampusnacht in style:

Leave a Boot to be Filled

In celebration of Krampusnacht, children in Germany and others who enjoy this tradition will often leave a boot outside their door so that St. Nicholas can fill it. Of course, the hope is that it will be filled with something good, a reward for well-behaved children. But it’s also possible that the mean Krampus will fill it with something unpleasant, like a rod, for children who have not been well-behaved.

Place Birch Branches at the Door

Also, those who are interested in warding off the evil that Krampus brings might want to follow the tradition of creating a bundle of birch twigs and placing them on the front door. Perhaps these will keep Krampus away and bring good luck all throughout the holidays!

Join a Krampus Run

One tradition associated with Krampusnacht is the Krampuslauf (Krampus Run, in English) which is a parade that includes people dressed up in their costumes. These parades are particularly popular in various Austrian Alpine towns, but other cities, such as Munich, Germany, will also feature a group of sometimes hundreds of folks dressed up as Krampus or St. Nicholas. Although this tradition is newer to North American, the city of New Orleans can usually be counted on to supply onlookers with an admirable Krampusnacht parade!

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