Here Comes Santa Claws
While Santa Claus is an easily identifiable figure, this horned creature might leave North Americans scratching their head (or fleeing for their life).
Meet Krampus (derived from the old German word for 'claw'), Santa's dark sidekick. While naughty children here can expect a lump of coal in their stocking if they have been particularly bad, misbehaving children in some European countries are destined to face Krampus: a goat-like, horned and hoofed demon wielding a switch (often a birch rod).
Here's a little info on Krampus, who has his own holiday on Dec. 5th each year. Since pre-Christian times, local folk have dressed up as Krampus and stormed through the streets, the bell around their waist signalling their arrival before they've even come into view. Some sources claim the march of Krampus (and Perchten, the female equivalent) helped to scare away winter, but mainly the purpose was to scare straight any misbehaving children.
These days, stories indicate that when presented with a crowd of diverse individuals, modern-day Krampus is most likely to go after young women instead of the traditional target of children. These lucky ladies can look forward to getting swatted on the tush and perhaps thrown over the shoulder of a goat-headed stranger wreaking of booze, who is perhaps a bit too free-moving with his hands.
You can see more images of 'Bavaria's scary Christmas tradition' by checking out this online photo album published by a German news source.