Almost every culture has some form of Santa Claus. He’s jolly and benevolent, and spreads cheer. Most people, however, aren’t familiar with the Germanic tradition of giving old St. Nick a special sidekick too.
He has some iteration of a right-hand man in countries ranging from Switzerland and the Netherlands, to Austria and Croatia. There even is a specific version of Santa’s helper in the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition.
The idea of a Christmas right-hand man might conjure up images of a cheery elf, a veritable Christmas Robin to Santa’s Batman, but it’s far from that. Santa’s companion in Germanic-speaking cultures is usually a dirty, violent rogue who delights in abusing or stealing naughty children. Here are some of his most recognized forms.
Krampus is a Christmas companion in Germany, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary. He is the Christmas devil, often pictured with the horns of a goat and a terrifying face. He carries a bundle of sticks with which he beats naughty children before stuffing them into his sack to take them back to his lair. Krampus probably originated in pre-Christian times, but he’s as frightening as ever now, since he is usually played by drunken young men who roam the streets and pick on young women. Overall, he gives off an incredibly rape-y vibe.
Krampus is now becoming more popular in America and the media as well. He was mentioned in an episode of “The League,” and Southern Tier Brewing Company named a beer for him. TV show host and chef Anthony Bourdain tried to include a short claymation story about the horned Christmas demon in Bourdain’s 2011 “No Reservations” Christmas special, but it was cut from airing. Luckily he posted it online, so you can watch here: