A horned, anthropomorphic figure in central and eastern Alpine folklore who, during the Christmas season, scares children who have misbehaved. Assisting Saint Nicholas, the pair visit children on the night of 5 December, with Saint Nicholas rewarding the well-behaved children with modest gifts such as oranges, dried fruit, walnuts and chocolate, while the badly behaved ones only receive punishment from Krampus with birch rods.
The history of the Krampus figure has been theorised as stretching back to pre-Christian Alpine traditions. The Krampus figures persisted and by the 17th century, Krampus had been incorporated into Christian winter celebrations by pairing Krampus with Saint Nicholas.
Although Krampus appears in many variations, most ite- rations share some common physical characteristics: he is hairy, usually brown or black and has the cloven hooves and horns of a goat. His long, pointed tongue lolls out and he has fangs. Krampus carries chains, thought to symbolise the binding of the Devil by the Christian Church, sometimes accompanied by bells of various sizes. He can also carry a Rute ie a bundle of birch branches of more pagan origins with which he occasionally swats children. Sometimes Krampus appears with a sack or a basket strapped to his back; this is to cart off evil children for drowning, eating or for transporting to Hell.