Over the years, we have collected numerous questions about Krampus and our organization.  Here is a small selection of our favorites:

What is Minnesota Krampus?

Minnesota Krampus is a non-political, 501c3 educational non-profit with the mission to preserve and promote the culture and customs of St Nikolaus and his Krampus from the area around the city-state of Salzburg, Austria.  We want others to see and understand the history and beauty of this alpine tradition, and we do this by creating and distributing literature, visiting schools and ethnic festivals, and funding an annual college scholarship.

What is/are Krampus?

Disclaimer: Folk customs have never been static.  The growth and evolution of folk customs create many conflicting opinions regarding the true origin and correct celebration of folk traditions between the practitioners (those focusing on the oral tradition of the last three generations) and academics (those focusing on documented references).  With that said, this answer comes from the Salzburg tradition:

Krampus is a creature, larger than a man, covered in fur, has large exotic horns (sometimes as many as four or six), and hunts the mountain passes in the eastern alpine realm (in modern-day Austria).  In the Salzburger history, Krampus was part of pre-Christian traditions that represented the harshness and wilderness of winter.  It is believed that during the Christianization period of the area (around 700 A.D.), the popularity of this pre-Christian traditions was so strong that the Catholic church allowed the continued celebration of Krampus, but only if the people would convert to Christianity and if the creature was paired with Sankt Nikolaus.  The tradition is believed to have been commonly celebrated all over Austria until the middle 17th Century, during the Reformation period under Salzburg Archbishop Colloredo, which outlawed any assumed celebration of the devil.  The tradition saw a muted revival (celebrated in secret) during the industrialization period (as people moved from the countryside into the cities), but was again outlawed in the 20th century by the Nazis.  In the 1960s, Krampus came back into popular culture and was again renewed in the 1990s through today.

Who is Sankt Nikolaus or Saint Nicholas?


Disclaimer: Minnesota Krampus acknowledges that the St Nicholas Center does not support, in any way, the existence or celebration of any Saint Nicholas “helper” that could diminish the purity and overall good of the saint.  We support the stance that the holy Saint is the center of our holiday tradition and also recognize the importance of preserving our cultural traditions.  

Is Krampus only an Austrian or German thing?

No, there are many cultures that have krampus-like beings in their tradition (including Greeks and Romans).  Folk cultures referencing “Krampus” include alpine Italians, Slovenians, alpine Croatians, Hungarians, Slovakians, and Czechs.

Why is Krampus paired with St Nikolaus? Why does Krampus wear bells/chains?

In the Salzburger tradition, it is believed that St Nikolaus is paired with Krampus as a compromise to the native population to convert them to Christianity and to bring balance (good/bad, right/wrong, etc). In some explanations, it is believed that Krampus is chained in servitude to the Saint (with Krampus appearing with shackles and chains) while others believe Krampus has a willing partnership with the Saint.

Why do you celebrate something so dark?

We think: why not? The main pillars of Germanic folklore (think Grimm’s fairy tales) are graphic tales depicting ‘right’ verses ‘wrong’, and often used to frighten young ones into not making the same mistakes. Just as these fairy tales teach young people valuable lessons about life, St Nikolaus and Krampus personify these lessons with positive and negative reinforcements.

Is Krampus bad or evil?

No, we believe that Krampus is the dedicated servant to St Nikolaus and operates only under the direct instruction (and supervision) of the Saint. It is St Nikolaus who documents who is naughty and who is nice in his Golden Book — Krampus is St Nikolaus’ chosen enforcer.

Is Krampus demonic or satanic?

The answer is no. Satan is a Christian construct and has no foundation in nor part of Germanic Paganism.

With a celebration so dark, Austria must not be a Christian country?

According to the CIA World Factbook on Austria, in 2001, of the 8.8 million inhabitants over 73% self-identify as Roman Catholic. For Salzburgers, Krampus is more of a cultural experience connected with their cultural and historic identity (existed for over 1200 years) than an exercise in religion.

Why does Krampus come at Christmas time? What does this have to do with Christmas?

St Nikolaus and his Krampus visit the children of Austria on St Nikolaus’ Name Day – December 6th – and have nothing to do with the Christmas celebration. St Nikolaus (and Krampus) sightings in Christmas Markets (ie. Christkindlsmarkt (Christ child markets) or Adventmarkt (advent season markets)) has more to do with these markets operating from mid-November through Christmas (and many through the 12 days of Christmas) than a connection to Christmas day itself. Austrians, as a largely Roman Catholic country, believe that the Christ child brings gifts on Christmas.

Furthermore, Austrians frequently ask me how and why Americans have “Santa Claus” (loosely based off of St Nik) play a role in the Christmas celebration when the “reason for the season” has nothing to do with presents from a man with a white beard flying through the sky in a red suit.

What is the costume that Krampus wears?

Generally, we acquired all of our costume elements from craftsmen in Austria. Our masks are carved from wood, by hand, by a master woodcarver. The masks are completed by adding detailing paint, real animal horns, long hair, and glass eyes. Our suits, in German “das Fell” meaning pelt, come from a long-haired alpine goat and are in their natural colors (reds, grays, speckled whites, and dark browns). To complete the look and sound, we also import our bells.

Why does Minnesota Krampus also refer to itself as Pig’s Eye Pass?

Krampus organizations in Austria refer to themselves by the fictitious and scary mountain passes they come from or are known to hunt. In the spirit of this tradition, Minnesota Krampus chose to co-brand itself as Pig’s Eye Pass.

Pig’s Eye Landing played an important role in Minnesota history and the location later became known as the Saintly City and Capital of Minnesota, Saint Paul. In honor of our city’s humble beginnings (with squatters and bootleg whiskey), our Pig’s Eye Pass comes from the imaginary mountains of Minnesota around Pig’s Eye Landing. Our uniquely Minnesotan history now has a uniquely Minnesotan Krampus organization.