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The companions of Saint Nicholas, Krampus and more!

The companions of Saint Nicholas are a group of closely related figures who accompany St. Nicholas in German-speaking Europe and more widely throughout the territories formerly in the Holy Roman Empire. These characters act as a foil to the benevolent Christmas gift-bringer, threatening to thrash or abduct disobedient children. Jacob Grimm (Deutsche Mythologie) associated this character with the pre-Christian house spirit (kobold, elf)

kobolod

which could be benevolent or malicious, but whose mischiveous side was emphasized after Christianization. The association of the Christmas gift-bringer with elves has parallels in English and Scandinavian folklore, and is ultimately and remotely connected to the modern Christmas elf in American folklore.
Names for the “dark” or threatening companion figure include: Knecht

Ruprecht in Germany, Krampus in Austria, Bavaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Friuli, Hungary (spelled Krampusz);

Klaubauf in Bavaria, Austria; Bartel in Styria; Pelzebock; Befana; Pelznickel; Belzeniggl;

Krampus

Belsnickel in Pennsylvania; Schmutzli in Switzerland; Rumpelklas; Bellzebub; Hans Muff; Drapp; Buzebergt in Augsburg and Little Babushka in Russia The corresponding figure in the Netherlands and Flanders is called Zwarte Piet or Black Pete, and in Swiss folklore Schmutzli, (schmutz meaning dirt).[1] In the
Czech Republic, St. Nicholas or Svatý Mikuláš is accompanied by the Čert (Devil) and Anděl (Angel). In France, St. Nicholas’ companion is called “Rubbels” in German-speaking Lorraine and Hanstrapp (in Alsace, East of France)[2] and Le Père Fouettard (Wallonia, Northern and Eastern France).

Krampus

Krampus

Krampus is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Yule season who had misbehaved,

Krampus

Krampus

  in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards well-behaved ones with gifts. Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children in his sack and carry them away to his lair.

Krampus is represented as a beast-like creature, generally demonic in appearance. The creature has roots in Germanic folklore; however, its influence has spread far beyond German borders. Traditionally young 

Krampus
Krampus

men dress up as the Krampus in Austria, southern Bavaria, South Tyrol, northern Friuli, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia during the first week of December, particularly on the evening of 5 December (the eve of Saint Nicholas Day on many church calendars), and roam the streets frightening children with rusty chains and bells. Krampus is featured on holiday greeting cards called Krampuskarten. There are many names for Krampus, as well as many regional variations in portrayal and celebration.

Krampus


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