Christmastime is a joyous occasion in which children receive presents from Santa Claus. Ginormous trees are decorated with lights and ornaments, stockings are hung from mantles, lights and decorations illuminate almost every neighborhood in America, and cookies and milk are laid out for the mystical St. Nick. Christmastime is even dubbed “the most wonderful time of the year.”

But the ancient traditions of Yule in Europe view Christmas as a much scarier holiday. Krampus — also known as the Christmas Devil — is believed to be St. Nicholas’ other half, a darker, more twisted creature.

Stemming from Germanic folklore, Krampus is a half-goat, half demon with horns and fangs, equipped with a chain and sticks in order to beat children in to being nice. Krampus is also known for taking naughty children back to his lair in Hell.

In 2015, Krampus was newly introduced to America in the form of a holiday horror film, and made its way into mainstream media.

In Austria, Hungary, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, there are “Krampusnacht” (Krampus Night) festivals where men dress up in costume and drunkenly take to the streets to scare people.

The Catholic Church outlawed Krampus, stating that the celebrations were too riotous. During World War II, Krampus was seen as political figure of Social Democrats — heavily opposed by the fascist regimes of the time.

Krampus has always been used as a means to scare children into behaving so that they would earn their presents from St. Nicholas, and while the tradition has become modernized in recent decades, the underlying point is the same. Because of movies and social media, Krampus’ presence has become more frequent, even in places like America that do not have traditional ties to the ancient demon.

It might not be the sweet Santa we have come to know, but Krampus may be more of a motivation to be good than the threat of a lump of coal.

Story by Olivia Malick, UP staff writer

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