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Austrian celebrants at Krampusnacht, a festival honoring the Pagan woods-god Krampus

"Greetings from Krampus" reads the text of this vintage Austrian postcard from the early 20th century

Krampus is an indigenous Germanic woods-god associated with goats and birch trees. His festival, called Krampusnacht ("Krampus Night") took place in early December, and it still persists, but with the advent of Christian religious traditions, Krampushe was characterized as a demon and made to be the servant or assistant of Saint Nicholas whose feast day on December 6th happens to fall near the same time as the old Krampusnacht.

Interestingly, despite he attempt to subjugate Krampus to the Catholic Bishop, the focus of the festival still remains squarely on Krampus himself. During this celebration, bonfires are lit and people dressed up in shaggy goat-headed costumes parade through the streets, menacing onlookers with birch besoms, as other revelers, dressed as Saint Nicholas try to capture and lead the rambunctious woods-spirit away in chains.

Krampus is typically depicted as a goat headed human figure with goat hooves and horns, sticking his long tongue out after the manner of a sexually aroused male goat approaching a female goat in heat. He carries a bunch of birch twigs, with which to flog onlookers, and he may He may give give coal to bad people. He often has chains around his waist, to symbolize his subservience to Saint Nicholas, and he may also carry a woven willow peddler's pack on his back, in which to carry away naughty children. He may also carry a basket of fresh fruits to distribute to good children at Saint Nicholas' behest and he may be accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht ("Servant Rupert") a farmhand character who presages the contemporary figures of "Santa's Helpers."

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