“In Hungary, we kind of have the presents or coal tradition you have in America, but it’s different. It actually is on December 6th, not December 25th, like in America. I mean, Christmas is on December 25th, but Santa Claus comes on December 6th. Our Santa Claus doesn’t live in the, uh, what is that place called – oh, the North Pole. He lives in Heaven. His name in Hungarian is Mikulás. Instead of the little people dwarfs, or I mean elves, he has Krampusz, who help the Santa Claus but only for the naughty children. To prepare for this night, children must clean their boots and place them into the window for Mikulás to see. If you are good, Mikulás will fill your boot with sweets and chocolates that night but if you are bad, the Krampusz will put a Virgács in your boot. A Virgács is a stick type thing made with a plant that is kind of hard and kind of soft, kind of like twigs but softer. I am not sure how to explain it in English. You can look it up online, there should be pictures. Anyways, there are strands of the plant held together with a handle and it is given to the bad children in their boots so their parents can spank them.”
My informant was born and raised in Hungary, only leaving for America when she was 17 years old. She has celebrated Mikulás Day, or Saint Nicholas Day, ever since she can remember. Her mom bought her a special pair of boots for the holiday when she was younger and she has used that pair even when it was clearly too small to fit her. She never actually wore these boots, considering it a special part of the holiday.
The reason that Hungarians celebrate this holiday on December 6th dates back to around 300 AD, when Saint Nicholas, a historic saint and Greek Bishop, lived in Turkey. He was known to secretly do good deeds, such as putting coins in the shoes of the people who left them out for him to wear. Saint Nicholas is said to have died on December 6th at an old age for the time, somewhere in his 70s. So, Mikulás Day is celebrated on the day of his death to remember and pay tribute to this kind-hearted saint. The Krampusz likely evolved just to give children an incentive to be good all year round so that they get sweets instead of a Virgács.
For another version of this tradition, view page 177 of this book:
Mocnay, Eugénia. Czech Phrasebook. Australia: Lonely Planet Publications, 2001. Print.