Krampus is a legendary creature from Austrian and Hungarian folklore and is associated with Christmas. On Christmas Eve, while Santa Claus hands out the presents, Krampus deals out the punishment.
On Christmas Eve, Austrian children place their shoes on the windowsill or outside their bedroom door. While they sleep, Santa Claus and Krampus visit their house. If they’ve been good, Santa leaves candy and treats in their shoes. If they’ve been bad, Krampus beats them with his stick. If they’ve been really bad, Krampus puts them in his sack, carries them off and throws them in a river.
In fact, Krampus' roots have nothing to do with Christmas. Instead, they date back to pre-Germanic paganism in the region. His name originates with the German krampen, which means "claw," and tradition has it that he is the son of the Norse god of the underworld, Hel. During the 12th century, the Catholic Church attempted to banish Krampus celebrations because of his resemblance to the devil. More eradication attempts followed in 1934 at the hands of Austria's conservative Christian Social Party. But none of it held, and Krampus emerged as a much-feared and beloved holiday force.
Today, Krampus Day is celebrated on December 5th. In country towns, some men dress up in furs, heavy boots, and a ghoulish mask topped with horns. Then, carrying sticks and ringing bells, they go around town, visiting the houses of families with small children. When the parents open the door, the men run in and terrorize the kids. They start growling and whipping the air with their sticks. The children scream and cry. After everyone’s had a good fright, the parents invite the men to sit down and have a drink.