Gruss vom Krampus!

In a heartwarming pagan custom predating the Christian era (6th century a.d.), children in small alpine towns of Germany and Austria would fear the coming of the Krampus, St. Nicholas' horny, malevolent alter-ego.

Back before anyone in the region knew the name of Jesus, St. Nick would visit all the good children on his Feast Day of Dec. 6th, bestowing them with gifts. But the night before, his lesser half, Der Krampus , would come to beat misbehaved children with a switch. And if they were really bad, he'd carry them off in his basket to spend an eternity in hell.

But as you can see in these vintage postcards, the Krampus would also spend his precious few hours on the material plane engaging in leisure activites, like sledding and accosting young ladies.

In the Bad Gastein Valley outside of Salzburg, Austria, residents continue to re-enact this tradition every December 5th by dressing up as Krampuses and running rampant through the village, singling out attractive, unaccompanied women who are foolhardy enough to leave their homes and "birching" them (swatting their asses with branches).

The Krampus enjoyed a resurgence in 19th Century Germany, when malicious parents would award their kinder with Krampus postcards, reminding them to shape up or be shipped out by a cloven-hoofed, leering, demonic incubus. Like Der Struwwelpeter , it must have made parenting a whole lot easier.

Get a whole book of the Krampus postcards this Christmas to horrify your own kids.

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