You better be nice…
Even if you may have forgotten – on this day you know: It’s worth being a good person all over the year. Because they are feared by nearly everybody, the big, hairy companion of Nicholas, the Krampusse. In December, the so-called „Krampus day“ is taking place and the tradition of Krampus running and the Perchten being lived in our region.
The Krampus as a traditional figure
Granted, I’m nice almost all the time, but that doesn’t change the fact that I get a queasy feeling in my belly when the beginning of December is getting closer.
In the distance you can already hear the dull bells of Krampus. But this sound and the thought of soon standing face to face with the hairy shaggy creature makes me shudder. And of course it gets even scarier the closer the shaggy figures get to me. Some creeping, stooping and menacing, the others are running around wildly, driving my pulse high. Grabbing my boyfriends hand, I feel like a little 5-year-old girl.
In its appearance, the Krampus resembles the devil as well as mystical animal figures which find themselves as “Schirchperchten” in the alpine tradition. While they run in the „Rauhnächten“, the Krampusse belong exclusively to the Advent.
Where the Krampus comes from…
Originally, the figure of the Krampus – as well as many other demonic figures of the Alpine space – comes from the pre-Christian period. The name “Krampus” comes from Germany. In Tyrol you speak mostly of “Krampelern”, “Tuifln” or “Tuifltratzen”.
Krampus mask & coat
Although most adult would not admit it: the Krampus is not only feared by the little ones. Even though we know that there is just a human underneath the scary mask, we are being intimidated.
So how does one become Krampus? Until you have the “outfit” of the Krampus, you must spend hundreds of Euros. But you have something that lasts a lifetime.
But what makes a Krampus a Krampus?
The mask is the most important item. Traditionally it is made out of pine or linden wood. Of course you can have your dream mask made by a carpenter. Nowadays, there are also many Krampuses wearing less traditional aluminum, plastic, or rubber masks. Anyway, on the head crown two horns, mostly goats’, ibexes or rams’ horns. The neck is covered with fur. The person behind the mask can see through two narrow slits below the nose.
The coat or trouser suit of the devil is made of sheepskin or goat skin and therefore smells rather strong. But in addition to the smell, the person underneath the suit has to carry a lot of weight: depending on the coat, the panel can weigh up to 30 kilograms. Putting on the coat demands at least for pair of hands!
On the belt cowbells are attached. Sometimes a chain is used for rattling. These sounds surley make you shadder.
The tail of the Krampus is usually made of a horse tail. With his tail or a birch rod, the Krampus chases the spectators fear. If you stand too closely, you risk getting chased. If this is your first time at the Krampus Festival, it is better to watch the spectacle from the back rows.
Krampus coming home and the show
Since the 17th century the Krampusse are part of the „Einkehrbrauch“. Accompanied by the frightening figures, Saint Nicholas visits and bestows the brave children while the naughty ones are punished by the Krampus.
The Krampustag is on December 5th. Normally, the groups run only until the 6th, the St. Nicholas Day.
If you want to experience tradtion and folclore, then this is the place for you: As the biggest show in Tyrol, it is a unique spectacle that should not be missed. With their hand-carved, scary masks and impressive choreographies, the Krampus Groups from all over Tyrol and South Tyrol reinterpret old traditions. A mystical spectacle you simply must experience – even if it means to face your fears.
Photos: Heinz Holzknecht, Toni Hiltpolt