Christmas in Austria


Malaak Ayesh

For generations, the legend of Santa Claus has been passed down to keep children on their best behavior all year long. Every Christmas Eve, children await Santa’s gifts as a reward for being nice. We were never warned of any potential punishments, other than a lump of coal, for being naughty. The children of Austria have had quite a different experience.  

The Alpine tradition of the Krampus warns children of St. Nicholas’ evil counterpart that will punish bad kids. The legend can be traced back to the 12th century as a part of Pagan traditions for Winter Solstice.  As Christianity spread throughout Europe, Krampus became associated with Christmas and Santa, much to the dismay of the church. 

 The Krampus is a half-demon, half-goat who is said to drag all the naughty children to hell. Different versions of the story exist, some of which are graphic and violent, however, the overall idea was to guarantee the children remained well-behaved.

Austrian parents even go as far as dressing up as the Krampus, parading the streets to further scare the kids. This has become its holiday in Austria and some parts of Germany on December 5th named, “Krampus Night”. On this night Men run through the streets scaring and chasing the children. 

Thankfully the Krampus no longer punishes children in brutal ways, it simply leaves a birch rod as a symbol of their deviance.