Art & Life

Who and what is a Krampus?

To any Kirkwood student in these past years, the name of Krampus may have one thinking of the movie with the titular monster. However, there is more to Krampus than just being scary. There is cultural and religious significance stretching hundreds of years. 

Originating in Germany, Krampus was meant to be a punishing-figure, only coming after the naughty children, swatting them with a stick or pitchfork, tossing them into a bag or basket, and kidnapping them. Some depictions have him eat the children, take them to hell, or even drown them. This served as a contrast to St. Nicholas, who rewarded nice children with treats.  

Krampus is depicted as having a goat-like lower body with a demon upper body, similar to Christian depictions of the devil. There are variations in his hair, being a brown or black color. A distinguishing mark of Krampus is his brandishing of chains. This was believed to represent the binding of hell by the Christian Church, showing that there are Christian influences in Krampus. However, Krampus was more derived from a pagan supernatural entity, that later became associated with the devil. 

There are traditions associated with Krampus that still occur to this day around early December. In Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic, they have a Krampuslauf  (German for Krampus Run). During a Krampuslauf, people will dress up in various elaborate costumes depicting Krampus himself, and take to the streets, chasing and swatting at the crowd to ensue shenanigans. Would this go well in Kirkwood’s campus setting? In Cedar Rapids? That has yet to be tested.  

There is also a Krampusnacht (Krampus Night) on the evening of December 5th, first popular in Germany, where people have another opportunity to don the hairy guise of Krampus and run around. This tradition is also celebrated in the aforementioned countries and in the United States as well!  

Recently, Krampus has seen more prominence as a part of the holidays since its attempted suppression during World War II, and with the 2015 film of ‘Krampus’ and the larger commercialization of this being, it seems like Krampus won’t be leaving anytime soon.  

Feel free to contact the Communique if you learned anything new about this intriguing tradition. If you are a transfer student from one of the countries that celebrates it, we’d love to hear some stories or experiences regarding Krampus! You can email them to us at communique@kirkwood.edu. 

Categories: Art & Life

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