The Krampus is a part of European folklore. Although details vary by region, the Krampus is a goat-like creature that punishes naughty children.
Descriptions of the Krampus vary greatly. In some cultures, he is described as a sinister man in a black suit. More cultures describe the Krampus as goat-like or satyr-like with horns, cloven hooves, a whip-like tongue, a tail, and covered in hair.
The Krampus is sometimes said to be the twin brother of St. Nicholas or just a counterpart. In earlier times young men from the village would dress like the Krampus in goat skins with masks and terrorize children. They were wrapped in chains and adorned with cowbells and they would jump up and down to create confusion. After the children were sufficiently repentant for their past year’s transgressions, the parents would invite the Krumpi in, feed them beer and schnapps and send them on to the next house. This all took place on Krumpusnacht (Krumpus Night), which is also the eve of Saint Nicholas Day.
After being scared straight the young people would receive their Saint Nicholas gifts by putting their boots by the door and waking up to find fruit and toys in them. The truly unrepentant would receive a birch rod instead.
The tradition has enjoyed a resurgence in Europe and in some parts of the U.S., although modified to include Krampuslauf (a kind of drunken Krampus run) and many other non-traditional activities. It is celebrated today throughout the new world and old.