Is Jolly St. Nick just too full of whimsy for you? Do you find yourself siding (and rightfully so) with the Grinch and Scrooge when it comes to the spreading of annoying holiday cheer? Then maybe a Krampus parade is more your speed.
Krampus, the evil counterpart to St. Nicholas, comes in early December to punish children who were bad, even taking away the worst offenders in his sack — forever. Others get lumps of coal, or a smack from his bundle of sticks.
There are a few organized events for Krampus in Prague, and what is billed as the country’s largest Krampus parade takes place in South Bohemia.
The event has been more popular in Austria and parts of Germany, where December 5 is called Krampusnacht, but now the figure is fast gaining a global following.
In the Czech Republic December 5 is the eve of Sv. Mikuláš (St. Nicholas), though an ash-black demon and white angel also tag along. But each year in Prague’s Old Town Square, fewer angels and Nicholases turn up, and there are more lone demons in very elaborate furry Krampus costumes ready to pose for selfies with anyone brave enough to ask.
Adults can celebrate at a Krampus afterparty at the LGBT-friendly Friends Club starting at midnight on December 5 and going into the morning of December 6.
For children, on December 6th at Koupaliště Ládví there will be a Krampus show with fire effects at 4:30 pm to 7 pm. Admission for adults is 60 CZK and for children 30 CZK.
A day later on December 7, a big Krampus parade takes place at Výstaviště in Prague 7–Holešovice from 4 pm to 7 pm, with the parade at 5 pm and drumming shows before and after. Admission for adults is 150 CZK, and for children 4 to 15 years old 100 CZK. Children under 4 are free, but it may be too scary for them.
Prague Fear House has a Krampus show on December 7 starting at 7 pm, with special cocktails for the evening. Entry is free
The biggest event in the country is Krampus Kaplice, scheduled for December 14 in Kaplice, in the Český Krumlov district of South Bohemia. Some 700 masked demons from 30 international groups are expected to participate, and thousands of viewers are expected. Tickets can be purchased in advance for 250 CZK via Ticketstream, and 300 CZK at the event. Children under 10 can go for free.
This is the eighth year of the event, which has been bigger each time. Publicity has been off to a slow start due to the late confirmation that the event could take place. The town also has a Krampus Gallery with costumes as a year-round attraction.
Costumed Krampuses can also be expected at Sv. Mikuláš celebrations in Moravia, as the figure has long tradition there.
Krampus is a half-demon/half-goat who punishes Santa’s rejects all the way from Bavaria down through northern Italy and former Yugoslavia. The classic Krampus carries birch branches and wears a cowbell. Children can appease the Krampus with a little song and dance, if they don’t want to wind up beaten and tossed in his sack.
Origins of the Krampus are up for debate, though the tale seems to have come from 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 backwards on donkeys, together with a Sv. Mikuláš figure in a bishop’s outfit.
The name Krampus comes from Krampen, the German word for claw. The traditional figure, before Christian times, would show up to unleash the forces of winter on the land. He is thought by some scholars to be the son of Hel, the Norse god of the underworld.