Kick off the holidays with Krampus, the demon who punishes naughty kids

Dozens of costumed demons will be at Výstaviště for two events: a family-friendly show and a later, more hellish edition.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 24.11.2022 12:30:00 (updated on 25.11.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

The Christmas season in Czechia is generally seen as a happy event, but it has a darker side. While St. Nicholas rewards good children, in much of Central Europe a horned demon named Krampus comes for the bad apples. He beats them and drags them off in a sack to only he knows where.

Every year, Krampus becomes more popular. People who want to kick off the holiday season with a glimpse of him can go to Výstaviště’s Malá Sportovní Hala on Saturday, Nov. 26, for two large Krampus shows.

Over 60 Krampuses from Austrian and Czech cosplay groups will make the blood of even the most hardened visitors freeze. Masked figures with giant horns will clank heavy chains while wearing shaggy fur coats and cow bells – the traditional garb of the demon.

Choose the right show for your group

An afternoon program at 4 p.m. is adapted for families with small children. Adults who aren’t faint of heart can see a more hellish show at 8 p.m. As both shows will be indoors, there is no need to be concerned about the weather. For refreshments, roast sausages and hot wine will be available, among other goodies. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.

The early show is suitable for families with children aged 3 to 10 years old. Everyone who visits can look forward to 30 Krampus devils and angels. Children who do not have their own masks can turn into little devils in the hands of experienced painters. Everyone will then put on their own devil show under the baton of a DJ. However, to make it not only about the devil, two confused angels also appear.

The evening show is intended for adults and children over 10 years of age. Organizers really do not recommend it for anyone younger, even within the well-intentioned education of naughty children.

A pyrotechnic show by the Pyroterra group will complement the parade of over 60 Krampus devils. The evening will be accompanied by a DJ.

Austrian demon with a fuzzy past

Krampus is a half-demon/half-goat who punishes naughty children all the way from Bavaria down through northern Italy and into former Yugoslavia. The classic horned and furry Krampus carries birch branches and wears a cowbell. Children by tradition can appease the Krampus with a little song and dance if they don’t want to wind up beaten with a stick and tossed in his sack.

Traditionally Krampus turns up on Dec. 5, the same evening that St. Nicholas (Svatý Mikuláš) comes with an angel and a devil. Mikuláš’s accompanying devil in Bohemian tradition does not have a name other than Čert, which simply means “devil.” Čert is a friendly and cartoonish character with a coal-dust-covered face, curly hair, and short red horns. He is not the same as the fur-covered and snarling Krampus, though their traditions overlap a bit.

Elaborately costumed Krampuses tend to appear on their own or join other Krampuses for a scary parade through the center of a town, without the help of Mikuláš or an angel.

The origins of Krampus are a bit fuzzy, though the tale seems to have started in the Alpine region of Austria and spread from there across the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The first written mention of something like a Krampus parade in Bohemia comes from the 14th century, with religious reformer Jan Hus commenting on fur-masked figures riding backward on donkeys, together with a Mikuláš figure in a bishop’s outfit.

The name Krampus comes from Krampen, the German word for claw. He is thought by some scholars to be the son of Hel, the Norse god of the underworld. Krampus possibly is related to a traditional figure who before Christian times would show up to unleash the forces of winter on the land.

This article was written in association with Výstaviště Praha, a.s.. Read more about our sponsored content policies here.

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