In this age of über-Christmas commercialism, Germany has somehow kept a sense of mysticism alive in its long nights, warm, cozy Wirtshouses, Christmas markets, and candle-lit Christmas trees. This mysticism is also kept alive in the eerie tradition of Krampus: the devil-faced, horn-headed, whip-bearing “companion” to St. Nick.

This is scary stuff. You might be asking why or how this evil-looking man has a place in Christmas tradition at all. The truth is that Christmas hasn’t always been full of rosy-cheeked Santa, eggnog, and Bing Crosby.

The text is by Beth Suda Berr.