The German Devils of Christmas – Krampus and Knecht Ruprecht

What?! There are German devils of Christmas? Many Americans are unaware of the curious and captivating Germanic folklore surrounding Christmas. Believe it or not, in Germany, they celebrate not only the jolly old Saint Nick, but also some not-so-jolly companions known as Krampus and Knecht Ruprecht – devilish figures who are said to accompany Santa on his rounds. Let’s learn more about them!

Just say no to KRAMPUS! LOL

Let’s Learn About The Two German Devils of Christmas

Krampus and Knecht Ruprecht are two distinct figures from Germanic folklore who are associated with Christmas and the winter season. Although they have similarities, they have different origins and traditions.


Krampus is a demonic figure that is said to accompany Saint Nicholas in parts of Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic. He is depicted as a horned, furry creature with a long, pointed tongue and chains or bells, and carries a bundle of birch sticks to swat misbehaving children.

Greetings from Krampus
You can find these bizarre Krampus postcards in a quick Google search! Terrifying!

Krampus is thought to have originated in pre-Christian Alpine traditions, where he may have been a representation of the god of the underworld. In the Christianized version of the Krampus legend, he is a companion of Saint Nicholas who punishes naughty children while Saint Nicholas rewards well-behaved children.


Krampusnacht (Krampus Night) is celebrated on December 5th, the night before Saint Nicholas Day. In some communities, young men dress up as Krampus and parade through the streets, scaring children and adults alike. In recent years, Krampus has become more popular in popular culture and can be seen in movies, TV shows, and other media.

We attended a Krampusnacht, also known as a Krampuslauf, and it was an other-worldly experience for us! Make sure to watch the video to see all of the crazy footage!

We share a lot even more about Krampus in this post and video – Dark German Legends.

Knecht Ruprecht and Saint Nikolas in Germany

Knecht Ruprecht

Knecht Ruprecht, also known as Farmhand Rupert, is a more benevolent figure. He is associated with Saint Nicholas in parts of Germany. He is depicted as a tall, thin man with a long beard. He wears a brown robe and carries a long staff or a bag of gifts.

The origins of Knecht Ruprecht are less clear than those of Krampus, but he is believed to have been a farmhand or servant who accompanied Saint Nicholas on his gift-giving rounds. In some traditions, Knecht Ruprecht gives gifts to good children and punishes naughty children by giving them a lump of coal or a switch.

Knecht Ruprecht is celebrated in various parts of Germany on December 6th, Saint Nicholas Day. In some regions, children leave their shoes outside on the night of December 5th, and Knecht Ruprecht fills them with gifts or treats.

Knecht Ruprecht visiting a family

How Germans Celebrate these Devils of Christmas Today

In modern times, the traditions of Krampus and Knecht Ruprecht have evolved and changed, with some communities emphasizing one figure over the other or combining elements of both traditions. However, both figures continue to be a popular part of Germanic folklore. Germans celebrate them in various ways throughout the winter season. But rest assured, parents no longer use them as a cruel tool to scare children into behaving. Germans have evolved to be compassionate and considerate parents!

See all of our posts on German Christmas traditions here!

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