You may be familiar with the legend of Krampus, the horned monstrosity who also visits children on Christmas Eve, but have you seen the holiday cards with Krampus binding kids in chains or beheld the satanic delights of the Krampus Run? If not, sit back and enjoy the demonic visual sleigh ride.

The figure of Krampus dates back to pre-Christian traditions, and derives from a pagan supernatural who was later assimilated to the Christian devil.

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Masked devils are known from Medieval church plays, and since the 17th century the Krampus is known as the evil companion of Saint Nicholas in some regions.

A postcard with a photo taken in Mitterndorf, Austria, via George Brett

While Nicholas (dressed like a bishop, with a mitre and liturgical garments) rewards well-behaved children on 6 December, Krampus comes on the preceding evening named Krampusnacht (Krampus Night) and gives coal or a rod.

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The Krampus could choose a more frightening way to punish the most misbehaved children: he grabs the kids with his long tongue, throw them in a sack, and take them back to his house for dinner.

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On some drawings, Krampus has one human leg, and one goat leg.

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The half-demon, half-goat monster often has chains to symbolize the Devil beaten by the Christian Church.

A Krampusmask made in St. Johann im Pongau, Austria, photo by Claus Ableiter

The practice was prohibited in Austria by the Dollfuss regime after the 1934 Civil War for a while, but now it's popular again.

Photo by AP

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

In some European countries (but now it's organized in a growing number of countries, including the USA) there are so-called Krampuslaufen (Krampus Run), when hundreds of masked Krampuses are running on the streets, fueled by schnapps.

Strange postcards featuring Krampus were extremely popular in the 19th and 20th centuries:

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via Arcanum Postcards

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