Move Over Elf on the Shelf, It’s Time to Bring Back Krampus!

It seems that blogging about the Elf on the Shelf is a requirement in the month of December. My Facebook feed has been littered with links to Elf posts that either A) document all of the hijinks that said Elf gets into, or B) explain how much the writer despises the Elf and the work required to move him/her around each night.

We do have an Elf residing in our household (his name is Rudolph of course), and my kids do love him to death. They love looking around for him each morning, and they are determined to keep dad as far away from Rudolph as possible (there was an incident involving a cabinet door, crushed Elf legs, and much sobbing).

That being said, Rudolph has not really succeeded in his primary job of keeping the kids from fighting and arguing with one another in the lead-up to the big day. In other words, he’s not a great enforcer of good behavior. He’s just too friendly (creepy if you ask me) looking, and he’s never followed through on the threat of reporting bad behavior to Santa (no consequences!).


Krampus, via

If we as parents insist on using a made-up story to enforce good behavior in December, I think we need to step up our game a bit. The tattling Elf isn’t cutting it. We need some good, old-fashioned terror. I’m talking like Poltergeist-clown style terror (I’m petrified of clowns to this day because of that movie).

Enter Krampus!

I’d never heard of Krampus before a few days ago. My brother emailed me a link to a slideshow about the creature, and the Elf on the Shelf-like parallels were immediately apparent. Here’s how Wikipedia describes the beast:

Krampus is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Yule season who had misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards well-behaved ones with gifts. Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children in his sack and carry them away to his lair.

Traditionally young men dress up as the Krampus in Austria, southern Bavaria, South Tyrol, northern Friuli, Hungary, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Croatia during the first week of December, particularly on the evening of 5 December (the eve of Saint Nicholas Day on many church calendars), and roam the streets frightening children with rusty chains and bells.

Imagine the fun (and deathly quiet house!) we parents could have if we made the Krampus story part of our holiday tradition? Jingling rusty chains outside bedroom doors at night. Cloven hoofprints in the snow outside the window. Bits of black fur (from the dog) left about the house. “You hit your brother with a Nerf dart one more time and you’re gonna wind up at the bottom of Krampus’ basket!” The possibilities are endless!

Even if we don’t feel that terrorizing our children into good behavior is the way to go (and really, that’s what the Elf on the Shelf is all about anyway, in a slightly less demonic way), we can learn something from how countries like Austria have dealt with Krampus. They banned the Krampus tradition in the mid-20th century and there were active campaigns publicizing that Krampus is evil (as if we needed to be told that!).

So, maybe if enough of us parents decide that we simply can’t take any more years of Elf visits, we can petition the government to ban him. Then we can blame his disappearance on Congress, and build hatred of Congress into young minds from the start. I see this as a win-win!

About Peter Larson

I'm a former (tenured) biology professor with diverse interests in the areas of anatomy, evolutionary biology, developmental biology, and exercise science. I'm currently expanding my passion for science education by making the jump to teaching high school biology (quite a change!). In addition to being a dedicated teacher, I'm also an avid blogger - I write about running at and biology/science/life here on The Blogologist. I also work a few hours a week at a sports injury clinic doing running gait analysis, and enjoy chasing around my three active kids. You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+, and via email.


  1. Alan Ashley says:

    I figured this came from the American Dad episode from last night

  2. Last Friday’s Grimm also had Krampus as a featured character!

    My kids are older (both in high school) so we missed out on the whole ‘Elf on a Shelf’ thing … which I just find bizarre, and have no doubt that we’ll be reading blogs about ‘crap that freaked me out as a kid’ featuring the elf in a decade 🙂

  3. William Summer says:

    This was my first into to Krampus,last year:

    A Krampus Carol by Anthony Bourdain
    link to

  4. It’s funny: this is the third time in a week I’ve heard about Krampus and I’d never heard of him before. I saw a book in the bookstore, saw the latest Grimm TV show and now your blog.

  5. My kids are too old for the Elf on the shelf stuff. We convinced the kids that Santa had cameras (typically smoke alarms or anything in the ceiling). The kids are now teenagers but still unconsciously look at the ceiling before doing something Santa wouldn’t approve.

    Krampus was new to me until last nights American Dad.

  6. Here´s an article with pictures of Krampus action in the streets of an Austrian valley. There they call them “Tuifl” which is Austrian dialect for “Teufel” (devil). The whole villages takes part, there´s even Junior-Tuifl team for 5-7 year old kids. Wow!

    link to

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