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Krampus is an Alpine mountain Christmas demon who figures heavily in the Christmas traditions of Central Alpine Europe. According to legend, Krampus accompanies St. Nicholas during the early Christmas season. Depending on the story, Krampus is either a regular demon enslaved by St. Nicholas to do the Saint's bidding, or is a demon who willingly and gladly works as St. Nicholas's partner. Krampus acts as the Bad Cop to St. Nicholas's Good Cop, warning and punishing bad children into being good, in contrast to St. Nicholas, who instead rewards good children with simple, small gifts.
In the Alpine regions, Krampus takes the form of a giant demon covered in goat, bear or ram fur, his head sporting large horns with a long, slavering tongue often hanging out of his mouth. Depending on the story, Krampus may have chained shackles on his wrists, signifying his enslavement to St. Nicholas. Generally though, Krampus will be wearing several large bells (as a warning to any who hear them that he's coming), along with a large wicker basket and birch rod. If someone has been bad, Krampus will either threaten a beating with his birch rod or actually give one. If his target has been particularly bad, then Krampus stuffs them into his wicker basket, and drags them off to punish them for their crimes. Depending on the story, Krampus will either bring them to St. Nicholas's home, Krampus's own mountain underworld, Hell, or mid 12th century Moorish/Muslim Spain.
Traditionally, young men in Southern Germany, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland and even Northern Italy dress up as the Krampus during the first two weeks of December, particularly on the evening of December 5, and roam the streets in grand, sweeping parades through town. Often, they will go after adults in the audience who are in on the fun, especially tourists encountering their first "Krampus Parade" or attractive young women. Curiously, despite their fearsome appearance and reputation, the (plural) Krampusi are generally fairly kind to children, generally exempting them from the schenanigans they pull on the adults.
Despite the frightening overtones, Krampus is quite a popular character in the Alpine countries. He brings some harmless "scary" fun to the Christmas season, not unlike what happens at Halloween. He is also not alone as the companion of St. Nicholas. Compare him with Knecht Ruprecht, a German character who performs a similar role (though more as a stern authority figure than a nasty devil), or the Lady Perchta, a female version of Krampus who can either be drop-dead gorgeous or hideously ugly. See also Bad Santa, which the Krampus is occasionally portrayed as.
Depictions of the Krampus in media
- On an episode of The Colbert Report, Stephen decides to join forces with Krampus to fight the eeeeeevil liberal secularists' War on Christmas. He offers Krampus some cookies and milk, which Krampus promptly whips with a rusty chain, then threatens to drag Stephen to Hell.
- On the old G4 channel, there was an old ad for one of the shows featuring Krampus. Enjoy.
- In Carn Evil, Krampus acts as the boss of the Christmas stage, although here he's more a demonic green Santa Claus combined with Rudolp the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
- The Krampus was added as a boss fight in The Binding of Isaac in the Christmas update. The Krampus will randomly appear in the Devil room with the chances of him increasing the more you visit the room and even more if you actually take items.
- In Pv P Online, Krampus is shaping up to be a major part of the 2011 Christmas Arc, as the cat Scratch Fury's Kringus persona was permanently defeated the previous year.
- In one of Rhapsodies' annual Christmas episodes a band of Krampusi are part of the staff in the prison naughty children are taken, another year they are sent to take Kevin away.
- In Chickenhare, the character Barry is a Krampus, whose race resemble hairy demonic ape-men that live in the Underworld.
- In Something Positive, Davan gives PeeJee the rundown on who Krampus is at one point.
- He was even on Cracked as an example of a creepy christmas tradition. Link.
- A Running Gag on the Dragon Ball Abridged Christmas Special has various characters wondering if Jinga and Beru are the Krampus, and if he was just smashed.
- Krampus received his own episode on CR's Familiar Faces series. Since CR always draws a title card featuring the respective character in a different style, he made Krampus the Grinch's horned, European cousin.
- In The Venture Brothers Christmas Special, the Krampus is accidentally summoned by Hank and Dean and proceeds to punish Rusty Venture.