Krampus is a mythical creature. In various regions of the world – especially Austria and Hungary – it is believed that Krampus accompanies St. Nicholas during the Christmas season, warning and punishing bad children, in contrast to St. Nicholas, who gives gifts to good children.
The word Krampus originates from the Old High German word for claw (Krampen). In the Alpine regions, Krampus is represented by a demon-like creature. Traditionally, young men dress up as the Krampus in the first two weeks of December, particularly on the evening of 5 December, and roam the streets frightening children with rusty chains and bells. In some rural areas the tradition also includes birching – corporal punishment with a birch rod – by Krampus, especially of young girls. Images of Krampus usually show him with a basket on his back used to carry away bad children and dump them into the pits of Hell.
Modern Krampus costumes consist of Larve (wooden masks), sheep's skin, and horns. Considerable effort goes into the manufacture of the hand-crafted masks, and many younger adults in rural communities compete in the Krampus events.
In Oberstdorf, in the alpine southwestern part of Bavaria, the tradition of der Wilde Mann ("the wild man") is kept alive. He is like Krampus in that he is dressed in fur and frightens children (and adults) with rusty chains and bells, but has no horns, and is not an assistant of Saint Nicholas.
In the aftermath of the Austrian Civil War the Krampus tradition was a target of Austrian Fascists allied with Nazi Germany
Krampus Night is still celebrated annually in Tivoli, New York.