Ho ho ho! 'Tis the season . . . to be chased by a demonic Santa Claus!
Welcome, welcome! Happy December! Despite my usual Grinch-like attitude towards Christmas, this year I thought I'd do a little Festive Friday mini-series. So to kick things off, allow me to introduce you to the Krampuslauf.
What is a Krampuslauf?
Krampuslauf translates as 'Krampus Run'. It's a tradition that dates back hundreds of years in Austria and Bavaria (and I believe some other central European countries too) and involves people dressed as Krampus parading through the streets. So what's a Krampus? The Krampus is the evil version of Santa Claus: he's the Mr Hyde to Santa's Dr Jekyll. He's a half goat, half demon creature with horns and long shaggy hair. Not exactly the most festive thing in the world.
Every November and December in the weeks leading up to St Nicholas Eve (5th December), towns across Austria and Bavaria play host to the Krampuslauf. St Nicholas Day (6th December) is kind of a big deal in Austria and Germany, it's the day when German and Austrian children find out if they've been 'naughty or nice', and whether the shoe that they left outside their door is filled with presents or not. The Krampus come, glowing eyes and all, armed with chains, bells, and birch sticks, used to intimidate and swat at naughty children. After the parade, the naughty children are taken down to the Underworld with the Krampus. If you were intrigued by the Krampuslauf, I've conveniently embedded a video for you below ;)
Where do the Krampus come from?
The name Krampus originally derives from the German 'krampen', meaning claw. The Krampus have been around for hundreds of years; some believe that they actually predate Christianity, and are remnants of German paganism. In fact, the Krampus sometimes appear with Perchta: a one-time goddess in Alpine paganism. In a similarly cheery manner, Perchta would often enter homes between Christmas and Epiphany to see whether the children and servants had worked hard and been well behaved. If they had, they could often find a silver coin in their shoe, but if they hadn't, Perchta would slit their bellies, pull out their organs and stuff their bodies wit straw and stones. Christmas is the season of kindness, I tell ya!
Whilst the Krampuslauf dates back hundreds of years, the 'celebration' was frowned upon after WWII as it was reported to have been created by the Social Democrats and it was also forbidden by the Catholic Church. The Krampuslauf is, however, making a comeback. Nowadays you can buy Krampus cookies, Krampus toothbrush holders, and even Krampus Christmas tree decorations.
Krampuslauf is coming to town!
While most Krampuslaufs have already happened for this year, you can find a full list of their dates here. Next time I'm in Europe over the winter the period I am most definitely going to schedule a visit to a Krampuslauf!
Next week I'll be writing about Christmas traditions in Catalunya, where things are more fecal than frightening . . .