Krampuses are horned and hairy beasts in Alpine folklore who work as agents of St. Nicholas, prowling the countryside with him on Krampusnacht, which is every December 5th -- and if you think you know Krampuses (Krampi??) because you watched the movie with Adam Scott, then you're wrong. You can sort of think of them as much-scarier-looking-Santas: creatures who signal their approach by the jangle of their bells, and though they may be fearsome, those who have been good will find them merciful. But if you've been bad, a Krampus may swat you with a switch. And if you've been very bad, he may shove you in his basket and drag you to hell or throw you in a frozen lake. So be good, for goodness' sake.
Though the Krampus is a central figure in Austrian and Bavarian tradition, he's seen a newfound popularity among Americans, and especially among Angelenos, thanks to horror flicks and local events. Al Ridenour, author of The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas: Roots and Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil (2016), resides in Pasadena and each year produces a host of seasonal local Krampus fêtes, including balls, a parade, and a night of Krampus-themed cover bands, such as Krammpstein and Marilyn Krampson.
Los Angeles' events in particular strongly convey the true origins of the Krampus, not just the schlocky horror side, and maintain connections with authentic Austrian groups. To explain Los Angeles’ inclination to warmly embrace the toothy beast, Ridenour said it’s just in our nature to love all things weird.
"We don't have much of an indigenous tradition for Christmas or anything that goes back very far, and I think the West Coast has always attracted people who want to live a little differently or who are eccentric,” he said. “There's also the film industry and the idea that L.A. was built as this sort of a Lotusland for people who like to explore fantasy.”