This mythical creature makes getting a lump of coal seem like hitting the jackpot. Krampus is recognized in European Alpine countries and, according to legend, the creature accompanies jolly old St Nicholas during the Christmas season, punishing bad children.
In contrast to St Nick, Krampus is represented as a beastly figure, and quite frankly, a little demonic—covered head-to-toe with brown or black fur, complete with cloven hooves, a monstrous tongue and long, twisting horns. The roots of the Krampus legend are in German folklore and during the first week of December, particularly on the evening of the fifth—also known as Krampusnacht—young men in Austria, southern Bavaria, South Tyrol, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia would roam the streets with rusty chains and bells, scaring the bajeezus out of children.
Along with chains and bells, Krampus is said to carry a bundle of birch switches, also known as ruten, perfect for swatting bratty children. Ruten has significance in pre-Christian pagan initiation rites, but in some depictions of Krampus, which vary depending on the region, it is shown wielding a whip or with a basket or washtub attached to its back. If a naughty child got off with a swat, they should consider themselves lucky. The basket or washtub was ideal for carting off evil children for drowning, eating or even transporting them to hell. Being good all year doesn't sound so bad now, does it?