Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Saint Nicholas and Krampus
Were You Naughty Or Nice?

Don't be sassy with Krampus! A true Tale

Saint Nicholas Day
Naughty or nice,
on which List
are you? ;-)

A True Krampus Tale

In the rural area of Upper Austria -
where I spent my childhood -
Saint Nicholas visited our house on the
eve of his feast day, and always in company
of at least one Krampus.

I must have been four or five years old,
when I was sure I had recognized a friend of my father's
behind the fearsome Krampus mask. I also figured that
his pelt was really a winter jacket worn inside out and
the chain he was dragging along and rattling noisily
looked like the ones used in cow barns.
He was carrying a large wooden pannier on his back,
just like the one the baker from the next village used
to transport bread.

I don't remember how it started,
but at some point I began to taunt him:
After all, I had been a good girl,
so what was I to be afraid of anyway?
At the end, I challenged him to try to fit me in the pannier
and before I could say anything, was I high up in the air,
lifted into the basket, and out the door we galloped!

I was still giggling when we passed our garden gate and
reached the country road that led towards the village -
we lived outside, amongst fields and meadows -
when all of a sudden I realized I had no shoes and
started begging to please be let go.

Saint Nicholas lifted me at once out of the basket and
onto the icy road and I ran home, with stockinged feet,
through the snowy landscape,
and ran and ran as fast as I could,
all of a sudden sensing danger all around me.

The End

"Traditional celebrations of Saint Nicholas Day
in Northern Europe included gifts left in children's shoes
(the origin of our American Christmas stockings).
Good children receive treats - candies, cookies, apples and nuts,
while naughty children receive switches or lumps of coal.
Sometimes coins were left in the shoes,
reminiscent of the life-saving doweries the saint provided.

Today - especially in families of German extraction -
children still put a shoe outside their bedroom doors
on the eve of Saint Nicholas Day, and expect to find
candy and coins or small gifts in their shoe on December 6th.

In some households the father of the family
may dress up as Saint Nicholas on the eve of his feast.
He comes in, sometimes with his sidekick,

Krampus or Black Peter,
and helps each child examine his conscience.
He admonishes the bad and rewards the good."
Quoted from: -> St. Nicholas

Pictures taken
5 December 2009
Images and own text © by Merisi
All Rights Reserved
Repost from December 2009


  1. I loved hearing your memories of St Nicholas! Living in Germany we put out shoes I was always worried I would end up with coal, although I was a good girl!
    Sarah x

    1. Thank you, Sarah! :-)
      In Italy, the Christmas Witch, La Befana, also leaves coal instead of gifts if the children had been naughty. Pastry shops actually sell some big chunks of something black that looks like coal (probably chocolate, I never had any).

      I once put real coal in my children's shoes because they would not clean up their toys. There was much wailing and lamenting, they were in utter shock that Saint Nicholas had found out about their misdeed. They rushed to clean up and then went to bed, eager to show what good little fellows they were. Their father was reading a bedtime story, when a helicopter landed in the court near our house. I quickly sneaked out the backdoor and filled their shoes with Saint Nicholas' gifts: clementines, walnuts, apples, and a chocolate Saint Nicholas. Then I went up to the children's room and wondered aloud if Saint Nicholas had returned by helicopter, seeing how they had finally cleaned up their act. They ran down the stairs and opened the door and there, indeed, all was well! ;-)

    2. Love this -- it would make a great post!

  2. Thanks for the story and a little of the fascinating culture.
    That must have been quite scary for a 5 year old.
    Love the customs from countries around the world.

    1. You are welcome, Sue! :-)
      I really was not scared at all, until I realized I had no shoes and began to worry about where I'd end up. Definitely no childhood traumata. ;-)

  3. Careful what myths you challenge, I suppose

  4. Enjoyed the story from your childhood and also how vividly you remembered!
    Lovely tale and also lovely traditions.
    I've a friend who is American, but her husband German and her children spent early years in Germany - I believe the children still place their shoes outside the door even though they live Stateside now!:)

    1. Quite memorable, no doubt! ;-)
      The same with my children, boots out side the door. We had a neighbor who went around the house, rattling on the windows.

  5. This was so interesting, Merisi, to hear your true Krampus story (I never even heard of Krampus!), and to learn about the traditions on St. Nicholas Day. There are days when I'd very much like to leave coal in my son's shoes...in fact, I just might, and see what happens! Keep it coming - it's fascinating!

  6. Down in my daughter's house a lot of baking goes on at this time of the year and usually a cellophane parcel would appear in even our golden oldie shoes on St.Nicholas, full of gingerbread and other Christmas treat . . . eine kleine Vorfreude.
    I love your story, did you get something tasty tat year anyway??

    1. Love your expression, that's exactly what it is, "eine kleine Vorfreude".
      Yes, I got the usual, clementines (Mandarinen), nuts, a gingerbread Nicholas (sometimes with a picture of his sidekick instead), and a bar of Bensdorp chocolate.

  7. I saw mention of Krampus over at another blog today... I did know about Black Pete, since I'm from Dutch stock, and of course St. Nicholas' day.

    1. I read about the Black Pete controversy, wonder how that came about. Maybe he's not the same as Krampus around here?

    2. I think it's seen as racial bias.

  8. Lovely story from your childhood and the adventure with 'St. Nicholas' and 'Krampus'. No wonder you never forgot that experience!

    1. Unforgettable. And I am still wondering about the confidence I had that my father's was indeed behind that get-up! ;-)

  9. So fascinating how different countries celebrate Christmas. The Krampus story was quite an adventure for a little girl. Glad you found your way home!

    1. Frozen toes, but otherwise happy. ;-)

  10. That third photo looks evil. Not nice. Interesting about the shoes - have not heard that before.

    1. You are right, not nice looking at all. Krampus is NOT meant to be nice. And there is also a historic background to the depiction of evil, Perchten figures, in the mountain valleys which are rather frightful to look at and see them dance right by or at you. ;-)

  11. I have just learned on another blog who Krampus is, so I can now fully appreciate this post!

    1. *smile*
      We children were a bit frightened of the whole Krampus spectacle, but somehow trusted St. Nicholas would reign him in and safe us from evil.

    2. Saint Nicholas was a wholesome figure in our world. We were taught the historical background and the benevolent life he had lead and where he had lived.

  12. Replies
    1. Thank you, Vicki! :-)
      I remember it as vividly as if it had happened yesterday.

  13. Loved reading the whole story Merisi. Love your bravery as a little girl full of spunk lol.. and, smart enough to know when the fun was over... :-), Christmas traditions are wonderful. I tried sending a message just a few minutes ago and not sure if went thru or not, don't see it here so trying again.. Penny

    1. Thank you so much for your kind message, Penny! Welcome to my blog. xox

  14. Just catching up ..I really loved reading about your memories!
    We hung up my dads knitted wool socks on Christmas eve ...I can still remember that magical feeling in the morning waking early to feel the weight of a sock upon the eiderdown over my toes...Some memories remain as clear as crystal don't they!

  15. Loved to read. Amazing pics.

  16. Oh my! What a story! It would make a wonderful children's book! Loved learning more about your traditions!


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