Nikolaustag (St. Nicholas' Day) will be here December 6th. Everyone knows what that means: Watch out for the Krampus! The Krampus, a half-man-half goat with horns, one cloven hoof, and a suspiciously long tongue, emerges on December 5th to torture and terrorize children (and adults) who have been bad. He may whip them with his switch, or wrap them in chains, or stuff them in the barrel he carries on his back and take them straight to hell.
After the Krampus has applied his Sonderbehandlung to the baddies, St. Nick comes by and distributes goodies to those left unscathed. The Austrians were apparently the originators of this tradition, and many parts of Austria still mount a yearly Krampuslauf (g) on December 5th, in which people run around in elaborate handcarved Krampus masks whipping the pretty girls with switches. Sounds like fun!
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was a vogue for Krampus postcards, which you could send (tongue in cheek?) to misbehaving children to let them know what infernal tortures lay in store for them if they failed to obey. Thanks to the skill of Central European graphic designers, many of these images still have the power to terrify and amuse. Indeed, you may find that these postcards help you understand certain aspects of mid-20th-century Central European history...
Monte Beauchamp of Blabworld (definitely worth a visit) published a collection of these postcards in 2004 in The Devil in Design: The Krampus Postcards. Of course, I knew I had to buy it. Here are a few samples from this delightful book: