International Urban Legends: Austria

As we resume our tour of international urban legends we find ourselves in Austria. Now, most of the legends here are sweet, cute and nice. We don’t that here. Fortunately, we have a whopper of an urban legend based in Austria. And speaking of naughty and nice, this one may be related to Santa Claus, but it isn’t one you want to get on its list.

Krampus

Krampus was Santa's hit man.

An early 20th Century greeting card of Krampus collecting a naughty child.

Back in the olden days Krampus – or so children were told – was someone you did not want to encounter. He was a hairy, horned creature that showed up at their bedroom door to beat them and carry them away. He always showed up at night and announced his presence with the sounds of rattling chains and cloven hooves clicking upon the floor.

Even worse, he was part of Santa Claus’ – or Saint Nicholas as he was known back then – crew. Santa was the nice guy, even when he dished out coal for the naughty kids. At least he left the kid in peace and not in pieces.

Krampus would show up and haul off the naughty kids to his underground lair for a year of torment and beatings. And Santa would be the one who would send Krampus out to collect the misbehaving miscreants at that.

Now, this was probably a legend based on parents looking to scare their kids into behaving. But it probably worked for the most part.

Krampusnacht

While Christmas is now celebrated on December 25th, back then Christmas was marked on December 6th by Nikolaustag. December 5, was Krampusnacht – Krampus Night – when the children spent the night hoping and praying Krampus wasn’t paying them a visit.

Not A Fan?

When the Fascists were running Austria in the early 20th century, Krampus was banned. Possibly from having been his victims a few times in the early years? But once World War II ended and a more democratic government took power, the celebration of Krampus was allowed to return. Parades are held each year and young men dress as the Krampus. They then run through the streets snarling and shaking chains at the crowds.

About the author

Richard Paolinelli


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