A new film is hitting theaters this season: "Krampus," a tale of a deadly holiday spirit who cares nothing for your milk and cookies. The Krampus creature has its roots in very real traditions -- traditions that view Christmas as, yes, something to be celebrated...but also feared.
This photo is old, but to this day, cities and rural areas in parts of Austria, Switzerland, Bavaria, Slovenia, western Croatia and northeastern Italy still consider Krampus a living -- and disturbing -- part of their holiday traditions.
Krampus originally appeared carrying a birch staff, a pagan phallic symbol that also came in handy for beating naughty kids. Historian Maurice Bruce has speculated that the stick "may have a connection with the initiation rites of certain witch-covens; rites which entailed binding and scourging as a form of mock-death."
The notion of terrifying or kidnapping children comes, in part, from the white slave trade that flourished during Medieval times; North African corsairs raided European coasts to abduct people in slavery.