According to Central European lore, Saint Nicholas visits every household on the evening of the fifth to fill good children’s shoes with small gifts and treats. However, Saint Nicholas does not arrive alone that night.
Accompanying him is the Krampus – a frightening, half-goat, half-demon monster whose sole mission boils down to punishing the bad children Saint Nicholas refuses to reward with treats.
Although December 6 is Saint Nicholas Day, the evening of the fifth is Krampusnacht – and heaven help any bad kid on Krampusnacht. Hence, on the morning of the sixth, good kids enjoy treats; the not-so-good nurse their injuries.
When I lived in Hungary briefly about twenty years ago, my wife and I agreed to put our shoes out on separate windowsills with the understanding that we would “secretly” fill each other’s shoes with goodies. I have to say, it was fun waking up to shoes full of treats on the sixth. My wife had filled one of my shoes with chocolate and sweets and had placed a Krampus switch of twigs in the other.
Later that day, a corporate student playfully asked me if I had put my shoes out the night before and was quite surprised when I informed him that I had. I then took a moment to explain how my wife and I had “secretly” filled each other’s shoes.
He smiled and asked me if I had been good or naughty.
I responded by saying that I had been both.
“Good and naughty?” he asked. “How is that possible?”
I described how my wife had filled one shoe with sweets and wanted to explain how she had placed a switch in the other, but instead of saying virgács, which is the Magyar word for a small switch of branches,
“Good and naughty, eh? Okay, I think I get it now.”