Krampus comes to Yellowknife with a mission
Most people know the story of Saint Nicholas, better known as Santa Claus, who brings presents to children on Christmas morning. Many do not know his buddy.
This year, a man in Yellowknife has taken on the role of Krampus – a horned creature who delivers coal to naughty children – to help bring back the Christmas cheer, something he felt was missing in the town.
By December 25, he said he spent a full week visiting misbehaving children.
He turned to Cabin Radio to share his story – and urged Yellowknifers to remember the true meaning of Christmas.
Want to learn how to stay off his naughty list? Here’s our full interview with the Yellowknife Krampus himself.
The following transcript has been edited slightly for clarity.
Megan Miskiman: What is the history of Krampus?
Krampus: Krampus is rooted in Austrian pagan folklore and thus older than Christianity. They saw fit to set him up with Old Nicholas, so St. Nicholas and I tackle Christmas together. Santa Claus rewards the good children and Krampus deals with the naughty children. Krampus is basically what we would call the original naughty list. I have a few things in my arsenal, but that’s my main job.
Krampus is a reminder for girls and boys – and adults – to remember what the holiday season means, and it’s a warning. It is meant to keep the light alive to keep the flame alive for humanity. Every year a huge Krampus parade takes place in Austria, where Krampuses from all over the world gather to celebrate the so-called Krampus Night. I look forward to traveling to Austria in the future to join my brothers.
In many pictures of Krampus and St. Nicholas, Krampus is in chains, he has chains on his wrist. It kind of looks like he’s locking people up, but in reality these chains represent Christian dominance over Gentiles. They are two entities, one is Christian and one is pagan, but the symbolism shows that St. Nicholas is in control of Krampus. It is important to note that I am a pre-Christian Krampus. I am chainless and limitless.
What is Krampus doing in Yellowknife this year?
I only come when the Christmas spirit fades, when people forget the true meaning of Christmas. During Covid we had found in some conversations with St Nicholas that the Christmas spirit was really suffering and people were getting colder as the pandemic dragged on. That really woke Krampus up: we had lost so much during this time that we couldn’t bear to lose the Christmas spirit.
This year I was delighted to see Santa Claus crash the first annual Krampus Night Parade in the town of Yellowknife. I wasn’t in the actual parade, I didn’t meet the right criteria. But I wandered the length of the parade to make my presence known. There were mixed reactions from complete confusion – comments like “Halloween is over” – to “Oh my god, that’s Krampus” and also true expressions of horror because my performance is quite elaborate and people are not prepared for it.
However, it has sparked ups and downs and I think people are starting to become more aware of what Krampus is and what Krampus means.
Will you be visiting children before Christmas?
Yes, I have some appointments. Parents have contacted me and asked me to visit their children. Some of them are from last year, so we have some frequent flyers. Some kids who just didn’t get the message last year.
I only work until Christmas Eve, when my job ends and I’m handing it over to Old St. Nick.
What does a typical Krampus visit look like?
When you visit, there will be a very loud knock on your door. Those who answer are usually in shock. Krampus will then call for the children by name, and very, very few of them will actually approach. I have presents for the children that are nicely wrapped and look like generous shiny Christmas presents, but when they open them they are very disappointed because what they receive is not what they expect. It is usually charcoal and may contain other items such as a black Christmas bell or a black charred box with their initial in the top.
The message is that if you behave like this, you are really being hard on your parents. You should help your parents a little more this year and it’s all a subtle nudge from the underworld to get back on track and not be that difficult for their parents who work really hard to care for their kids care for.
How do children usually react to your visits?
I’ve experienced everything from tears and running away to true fearlessness and curiosity. I’ve seen the Christmas spirit in children’s eyes when they see Krampus. They have a sense of wonder and curiosity, and that’s very special. When I see that during a visit, it’s quite magical and even warms Krampus’ crunchy cockles.
In many films and stories, Krampus is often portrayed as a villain. How would you describe yourself?
Krampus has a bad reputation. He is more of a collaborator and together with St. Nicholas their goal is to encourage the Christmas spirit in humanity at this special time of the year. It’s about reminding people not to lose the Christmas spirit and to keep the good in their hearts.
Where can I learn more about Krampus?
There is a new movie called Krampus and in this movie the grandmother tells her grandchildren a story about her own experience with Krampus as a child. I encourage people who want to learn a little more about Krampus to watch this film over the holidays. Look up the grandmother’s story to her family about what happened to her when the spirit of Christmas was lost in her family as a girl, and this is probably the best modern account of a pre-Christian pagan tradition.