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 biology teacher, blogger, and science geek with diverse interests (and experience) in the areas of zoology, anatomy, evolutionary biology, developmental biology, and exercise science. I'm currently expanding my passion for science education by making the jump from higher ed (10 years as a biology professor at Saint Anselm College) to teaching high school biology at Coe-Brown Northwood Academy in Northwood, NH. In addition to being a dedicated teacher, I'm also an avid distance runner - I write about running at You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+.