Runner running from Krampus


Krampus: Who What When Where and Why?


What is Krampus?

Picture this: The 5k finish line is just within sight. You’ve given it your all so far, and you’re not sure you have any energy left. What would motivate you to push through to the finish? The thought of rewarding yourself after weeks of training? The anticipation of that post-race “runners’ high?”

What about being chased by a horned demon?

For hundreds of years, people all over Central Europe have been doing their best to avoid Krampus. But before you start your own Krampus run — or Krampuslauf as they say in Austria and Germany — you’re probably wondering what exactly you’re getting into.

Who is krampus?

Krampus is a legendary monster who punishes misbehaving children. Traditionally, Krampus is associated with Advent and Christmas as a companion to Saint Nicholas (aka Santa Claus). You can think of Krampus as a sort of anti-Santa Claus.

The exact appearance of Krampus varies between regions and cultures, but he generally has cloven feet, horns, fangs, and a black hairy body. He also traditionally walks around with a birch rod.

If Krampus seems a lot like the devil to you, you’re not completely wrong. While the histories of Krampus and Satan are completely separate, it was common for early European Christians to blend characters from their old pagan past and new Christian beliefs. So, it was only natural to bring together two evil villains together into a single image.

Where does the Krampus tradition come from?

Krampus most likely originated in modern-day Germany before spreading to Switzerland, Austria, and other parts of Central Europe. The name “Krampus” comes from the word “Krampen,” which is a German word for “claw.”

Like many things we associate with Christian holidays (think Christmas trees and Easter bunnies), Krampus was around well before these parts of Europe were Christianized. It’s believed that Krampus was originally associated with pagan winter rituals and eventually incorporated into the Christian winter holidays of Advent and Christmas.

The Church initially tried to stamp out Krampus, but Krampus persisted. By the 1600s, Krampus became an inseparable sidekick to Saint Nicholas. According to tradition, both Saint Nicholas and Krampus appear on December 5, which is known as Krampusnacht (Krampus Night). On the next day, Nikolaustag (Saint Nicholas Day), children wake up to either find presents or find themselves punished by Krampus.

One thing that kept Krampus alive was the invention of postcards and greeting cards, which became very popular in Austria and Germany in the 1800s. People would send each other a card containing a Gruß vom Krampus (Greeting from Krampus) along with a funny poem. Early Krampuskarten (Krampus cards) featured a more intimidating image of Krampus looming over children but have since softened to become far less menacing. Thus, the Krampus tradition has slowly morphed to become an endearing part of the Christmas season rather than a dreaded event.


Runner's lined up at the start line

How did Krampus come to the U.S.?

Up until the 1980s, Krampus was virtually unknown in the United States. Although there were plenty of German immigrants arriving in the U.S. in the 1800s, German culture and traditions became very unpopular after the two world wars.

However, the Krampus tradition has experienced a surge in popularity in Austria and Germany since the late 1900s. Perhaps this was because of an intentional push to preserve local culture, because of a more commercialized Christmas season, or because of some blend of the two.

Either way, the result has been that Krampus runs have made their way well beyond the Alps, making their way to U.S. destinations such as New York, Los Angeles, and — of course — Alabama.

Why Run in a Krampus Run?

Now that you know all about Krampus, you might be wondering, “OK, but what’s so great about a Krampus run?”

First, Krampus is family-friendly. While it’s fair to say that Austrian and German children didn’t initially have the best relationship with Krampus, we can assure you that things have changed. Krampus is much nicer and tamer than in the tales of old. He’ll be on the course to keep an eye on things, and it’ll all be in the spirit of Christmas fun. He’ll even pose for pictures.

Secondly, running with Krampus is a new and interesting way to run a 5k. How many other races feature an ancient horned demon chasing after you? There’s just no better way to keep yourself motivated on the course.

Krampus brewing a beer for Das Stahl Bierhaus

What to expect at the krampus run?

If you’ve done a 5k race before, then the Krampus Run will be familiar to you. The only big difference is that Krampus will be on the course keeping you on your toes. But we promise he won’t keep you from running or having a good time.

For those of you who have never done a 5k before, welcome to your first race! After you check in, make your way to the start line. Stay on the course — we’ll mark it for you — and feel free to take a walk break whenever you need to. But don’t let Krampus see you resting for too long!

Kick off the christmas season with Krampus!

It’s amazing how many ways there are to celebrate Christmas around the world. We love Krampus because he combines three of our favorite things: Christmas, running, and, of course, beer. Come join us in this wonderful, bizarre holiday tradition. Krampus looks forward to meeting you!


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