24 December 2015

Krampus!

Krampus Parade in Bad Goisern
This is what Wikipedia has to say about Krampus:

In Austro-Bavarian Alpine folklore, Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts. Regions in Austria feature similar figures and, more widely, Krampus is one of a number of Companions of Saint Nicholas in regions of Europe. The origin of the figure is unclear; some folklorists and anthropologists have postulated a pre-Christian origin for the figure (see Germanic paganism).
For several years now, I have heard about the Krampus festivities, mostly in the Salzkammergut in Austria, and have wanted to make the trip in early December to take part. The reminder has been in my calendar 3 months in advance of Dec. 6th for the last couple years, and this year I finally decided it would happen. We had done some research, and found out that the Krampus festivities were happening across several days in many villages throughout Austria, and they seemed to culminate in a huge parade in Bad Goisern on Dec. 7th. With that in mind, we booked flights to Munich arriving several days in advance, rented a car and drove towards Salzburg.
Krampus at the Schloß Helbrunn Christmas Market
In Salzburg, there was a Krampus parade happening at the Schloß Helbrunn Christmas market, which was our first taste of Krampus. This was a very theatrical Krampus parade. There was music, and the red glow of road flares as the beasts burst into the courtyard of the castle grounds, flowing around the festively-decorated Christmas market, circling a few times, scaring children and adults alike, before the crowd converged awards one end and a cramps dance of some sort proceeded. Since we didn't know this would happen, we were not well positioned and I couldn't really see what was going on. After this, the various troupes of Krampuses were herded off to another part of the castle grounds for a massive group photo. We barely made it there in time before it dispersed. The crowd seemed to know where and when things were happening, but we apparently didn't get the memo, so we were always barely catching the festivities.
The next day, we moseyed through Salzburg, and were surprised with how much Krampus stuff we saw - the bakeries had Krampus pastries. Like gingerbread men, I suppose, but more puffy. I didn't taste one, so don't know what it was like. There were also people selling Krampuses made from plums, dates and raisins.
Krampuses, St. Nick & an Angel Making House Calls
After we left Salzburg, we went to Bad Gastein, which was up in the Alps in the center of Austria. Here, we were told, the Krampus costumes were more traditional, the masks made of wood and the costumes were made from real pelts and horns. Here, as the sun went down, St. Nikolaus would travel from house to house with an angel and a few Krampuses. The Krampuses would dance in the streets, outside the house, until they were let inside. We don't really know what happened in the house, but St. Nikolaus and the Krampuses would eventually come out again, and move on to the next house.
Bad Gastein Krampus
The next day, we went to a Krampusrummel in Dorfgastein, a nearby village. There, the people in town waited in the central park for St. Nikolaus and the Krampuses to arrive. Nikolaus would give a little speech and then the kids would get chased by Krampus or given candy.
We really liked these small village Krampus festivities - they were very fun, encouraged participation, and they could be scary, without getting mean.
Krampus in Bad Goisern
We ended our Krampus tour with the massive 1000+ Krampus parade in Bad Goisern. Here, the fire department barricaded off the street that this throng of demons would amble through, and we drank Glühwein while waiting in the chilly weather for the festivities to start.
Krampus Parade in Bad Goisern
Eventually the "Kinderkrampus" started - several young children in Krampus costumes marched down, and for a moment there we thought, oh, isn't Krampus cute.
Krampus in Bad Goisern
Soon, the real thing started. Hundreds of monsters, each costume different, flooded the streets along with flares providing eerie illumination, fireworks crackling and Rammstein blaring. At the beginning, the antics of Krampus were more subdued - they would playfully steal kids hats and the swats from the switches were light taps. As the night went on, the Krampuses were more bold, grabbing for people farther back in the crowd, with the fire department members having to pull them off the barricades.
Krampus Parade in Bad Goisern
Krampus Parade in Bad Goisern
Krampus in Bad Goisern
At the end of the night, we were cold and slightly bruised from the whips of various Krampus incarnations, but I was quite happy to see this display. The Bad Goisern parade had Krampuses from all over the country, and many were reaching Hollywood SFX levels of scary masks. It was interesting and amazing to see the crazy things they wore, did and got away with. But I think I like the traditional village Krampus better.

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