Department Events · Uncategorized

Krampus Comes to Town!

The German classes had a surprise visitor this week:

Saint Nicholas and his terrifying helper, Krampus.


Fortunately WFU German students are all good, so they had nothing to fear when Krampus came bursting into their classroom!  They only got gifts from Saint Nicholas 🙂


As for the demon himself, he refused to answer when asked for a comment on this year’s crop of German students, instead preferring to blur out and disappear:


The German-speaking world is particularly rich in Christmas-related traditions.  Here’s a short description of some of them from Professor Boyer:

It’s always interesting to look back on where we get our traditions. St. Nicholaus (4th century CE) was actually a Greek bishop who lived in the city Myra, now in Turkey. He became the patron saint of children and sailors. His veneration in German speaking countries most likely came through the connection with the Byzantine princess Theophanu who married the emperor Otto II (972 CE).

In German speaking countries, St. Nicholaus typically has a helper that accompanies him on his nightly travels to bring gifts to children. These helpers are known under various names, such as Knecht Ruprecht or Krampus, although there are variations depending on region. Where these figures come from is still debated, with some saying that they have their roots in pagan midwinter traditions.

Children are told to be good throughout the year so that Ruprecht or Krampus don’t punish them on the 6th of December. If they were bad, they would receive coals instead of candy and sometimes even beatings. Nowadays, depending on religious affiliation, children put out a boot, a sock, or a note to St. Nicholas the night before and during the night it is filled with candy and little toys.

 A famous poem by Theodor Storm (1817-1888) that many German speaking children know talks about Knecht Ruprecht:

Von drauß’ vom Wald komm ich her;

From out the forest I now appear,

ich muss euch sagen, es weihnachtet sehr!

To proclaim that Christmastide is here!

Allüberall auf den Tannenspitzen

For at the top of every tree

sah ich goldene Lichtlein sitzen;

are golden lights for all to see;

und droben aus dem Himmelstor

and there from Heaven’s gate on high

sah mit großen Augen das Christkind hervor.

I saw our Christ-child in the sky.

Und wie ich so strolcht’ durch den finstern Tann, 

And in among the darkened trees,

da rief’s mich mit heller Stimme an:

a loud voice it was that called to me:

“Knecht Ruprecht”, rief es, “alter Gesell,

‘Knecht Ruprecht, old fellow,’ it cried,

hebe die Beine und spute dich schnell!

‘hurry now, make haste, don’t hide!

Die Kerzen fangen zu brennen an,

All the candles have now been lit —

das Himmelstor ist aufgetan.

Heaven’s gate has opened wide!

Alt’ und Junge sollen nun

Both young and old should now have rest

von der Jagd des Lebens einmal ruhn;

away from cares and daily stress;

und morgen flieg ich hinab zur Erden;

and when tomorrow to earth I fly

denn es soll wieder Weihnachten werden!”

“it’s Christmas again!” will be the cry.’

Ich sprach: “O lieber Herre Christ,

And then I said: ‘O Lord so dear.

meine Reise fast zu Ende ist;

My journey’s end is now quite near;

ich soll nur noch in diese Stadt,

but to this town* I’ve still to go,

wo’s eitel gute Kinder hat.”

Where the children are good, I know.’

“Hast denn das Säcklein auch bei dir?”

‘But have you then that great sack?’

Ich sprach: “Das Säcklein, das ist hier:

 ‘I have,’ I said, ‘it’s on my back.

Denn Äpfel, Nuss und Mandelkern

For apples, almonds, fruit and nuts

essen fromme Kinder gern.”

For God-fearing children are a must.’

“Hast denn die Rute auch bei dir?”

‘And is that cane there by your side?’

Ich sprach: “Die Rute, die ist hier;

‘The cane’s there too,’ I did reply;

doch für die Kinder nur, die schlechten,

but only for those, those naughty ones,

die trifft sie auf den Teil, den rechten.’  

who have it applied to their backsides.’

Christkindlein sprach: “So ist es recht!

The Christ-child spoke: ‘Then that’s all right!

So geh mit Gott, mein treuer Knecht!”

My loyal servant, go with God this night!’

Von drauß’ vom Walde komm ich her;

From out the forest I now appear;

ich muss euch sagen, es weihnachtet sehr!

To proclaim that Christmastide is here!

Nun sprecht, wie ich’s hier drinnen find!

Now speak, what is there here to be had?

Sind’s gute Kind sind’s böse Kind?

Are there good children, are there bad?

For more information, please look at: Bächthold-Stäubli, Hans, and Eduard Hoffmann-Krayer, editors. Handwörterbuch Des Deutschen Aberglaubens. Walter De Gruyter, 1938. Link.


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