(image source: Wikipedia)
In Austria we traditionally celebrate Saint Nicholas Day on 6th December. Having grown up believing that the Christkind, baby Jesus, delivers presents on Christmas Eve, Saint Nicholas is the closest to Santa Claus I will ever get. At home, the two were not that different. People would dress up as Saint Nicholas and visit schools or even homes. Much like Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas had a large book where he kept track of whether you had been naughty or nice. If you had been nice you got a bag of gifts, usually containing nuts, oranges, gingerbread, and chocolates. But if you had been naughty his companion, Krampus, would threaten you with his bundle of birch sticks. Even though the Krampus I encountered never actually whipped any of the children, the threat and playful whack with the birch was enough to drive home the message. Krampus was not to be trifled with, and the legend behind him is even more disturbing.