Krampus, is the dark companion of St. Nicholas. A beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish bad children during the Christmas season, He is usually seen as a classic devil with horns, cloven hooves and monstrous tongue, but can also be spotted as a sinister gentleman dressed in black or a hairy man-beast. Where Saint Nicholas delivers gifts to the well behaved children on Christmas, Krampus punishes the naughty children by swatting them with switches and rusty chains before dragging them in baskets to a fiery place in the earth.
This creature is known by many names across the continent — Knecht Ruprecht, Certa, Perchten, Black Peter, Schmutzli, Pelznickel, Klaubauf, and Krampus.
Krampus is celebrated on Krampusnacht, which takes place on the eve of St. Nicholas’ Day. In Austria, Northern Italy and other parts of Europe, party-goers masquerade as devils, wild-men, and witches to participate in Krampuslauf (Krampus Run). Intoxicated and bearing torches, costumed devils caper and carouse through the streets terrifying child and adult alike. Krampusnacht is increasingly being celebrated in other parts of Europe such as Finland and France, as well as in many American cities.
The oldest written reference to this creature is 4000 years old.