Santa’s Helper is….a Devil?

7 years ago, our family (short one Sassy Princess) lived in Budpapest, Hungary for a little while. The Naturalist was 4, The Golfer was 1 (awww!) and we took the opportunity to travel around Central/Eastern Europe via our Eurail passes. I enjoyed our forays into christmas markets throughout Germany, Vienna, and Budapest…except that the kids were too little to let me wander at leisure, soaking it up. It was more like a lightning strike…get in, try to see everything in each stall, wish we were living on more than a student budget, vow to return again someday, take pictures, and then get out to meet naptimes/eating times/play times/potty times/etc. etc. But afterwards, when I look through the pictures, I think to myself, “WOW! That was cool!”

One thing I do remember clearly is that, starting around December 6th (St. Nicholas Day), we saw Santa roaming around. And he had a helper beside him, always. Only it wasn’t an elf. It was a devil. Carrying a stick. With horns and everything! And it was just as common to see people walking around with flashing devils horns as it was to see them wearing Santa hats. For this, I had no frame of reference. Hubby and I wondered to ourselves, “What does this mean? Why the devil? With Santa?!” We concluded that all Europeans must be Satan worshipping cultists. Much like they must have concluded we were when we walked through the streets of Budapest on Halloween wearing bedsheets and pretending to be ghosts.

Just to document it, I managed to buy a children’s toy at one of the markets. It looks so innocent, all red rickrack and festive! All the kid’s had one of these!
Krampus Toy

Let’s look closer and what’s hiding in there!

When you push the stick up, something starts appearing…

What could it be?!

Oh! It’s… a devil! Didn’t see that coming!

He even has a little black rickrack tail, and red horns!

He used to have a stick atttached to his hand, but that didn’t survive the test of time like his curly black hair has.

I asked my one friend who spoke English to explain it to me. She looked confused, as if she had to explain ‘water’ or ‘bread’.

“Well”, she finally spoke, “You have Santa, yes? To give presents to good little girls and boys?”

I nodded yes. I understood that part.

“OK. Good boys and girls get candy. But what about the bad ones. Bad, yes? Naughty? Naughty children don’t get this good things. That is what Krumpus is for, yes?”

“Krumpus?” I nodded no. “What is Krumpus?”

“You know Krumpus! He take little boys and girls…they are very naughty, yes? He take them and beat them with the stick.”


At times, I’ve found Santa to be a bit overbearing. For years I worked under the assumption that I was being televised under a Big Brother type widescreen TV at the North Pole, on a 24/7 live stream. And this was WAAAY before Big Brother, Wide Screen TV’s, OR 24/7 live stream. I have a great imagination.

In any case, Krumpus takes that paranoia and increases it by a factor of 10. Coal in your stocking? That’s nothing! You better not shout, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why….Krampus is coming with a Christmas beating. And then he may take you away to hell. Those Europeans aren’t playing around! Although he is kinda cute and sweet, in a devilish way.

“You know Santa: cheeks like a rose, nose like a cherry.
Now meet the Krampus, a boozy goat-horned menace
that whips children around Europe.”
Santa’s Not-So-Little Helper; by Clay Risen
4-December-2002 The Morning News

In case there is anyone else out there completely unaware of this little devil dude who hangs around Santa, here are a few links that helped me get up to speed with the whole custom…

A wikipedia article on Krampus here.
A classic Xanga article here with priceless illustrations of just what exactly happens to naughty girls and boys.
A firsthand account here.

Only 8 days till Christmas…I hope you all have been good!