As written in 17th Century German folklore, Knecht Ruprecht appears in homes on St. Nicholas Day (December 6) carrying a long staff and a bag of ashes (collected by climbing down chimneys). He asks little children if they pray, and if they answer “yes,” they receive a bag of apples. If they answer “no,” he beats the children with his bag of ashes.
Krampus, A Christmas Legend
Krampus Day is associated with Christmas and is a part of Hungarian and Austrian folklore. “Krampus” is from the Germanic word “krampen” which means “claw.” According to legend, Krampus is a demon who travels with St. Nicholas on Christmas Eve, and while Santa delivers presents to the good little children, the cruel Krampus terrorizes bad children with his fearsome presence. Illustrations of Krampus often depict him with a basket on his back (presumably to haul naughty children back to his lair), and a willow branch for swatting.
December 5th is Krampus Day throughout much of Europe, and on the days surrounding Krampus Day, young men dress up in costume and roam the streets in chains, jangling loud, rusty bells, waving willow branches, and frightening children into good behavior before the arrival of St. Nicholas.
So move over, Mr. Scrooge: there’s another ghostly tale in town for Christmas.