With Christmas comes a horned, anthropomorphic figure who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved, in contrast to Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts. This creature is also known as the Krampus. The Krampus is one of a number of Saint Nicholas’ companions, as he visits families, in regions of Europe. In traditional parades and in such events as the Krampuslauf (English: Krampus run), young men/ women/ children dressed as Krampus participate. Such events occur annually in most Alpine towns and despite Munich not being an Alpine town, considering its proximity to the Alps (a 2.5-hour drive away) and its rich tradition of immersing itself in forms of Christmas from all over Europe, Munich held its very own Krampuslauf too.
We were blessed with wonderful weather that day – we had cotton candy clouds, an arctic blue sky and beautiful, warm sun rays which pretty amounted to the icing on the cake. Warmth is such a godsend – the cold had made me realise that.
Although Krampus appears in many variations, most share some common physical characteristics. He is hairy, usually brown or black, and has the cloven hooves and horns of a goat*. His long, pointed tongue lolls out.
*This is something I don’t support very much at all: real animal fur/ leather/ horns/ hooves were used in making the costumes. They use so much animal products that each costume could weigh up to 10kg!!!
Krampus carries chains, thought to symbolize the binding of the Devil by the Christian Church. He thrashes the chains for dramatic effect and may occasionally ‘swat’ children with them (as can be seen in the vlog at the bottom of this post). The chains are sometimes accompanied with bells of various sizes. Sometimes Krampus appears with a sack or a basket strapped to his back; this is to cart off naughty children for their impending ‘transport to Hell’. That’s where the parents’ ‘threats’, “Be good or else the Krampus will take You away!”, originated from.
“Aaaaarggghhhh!!” they’d bellow, and it frightened me so much as to how similar they sounded to how we’d imagine monsters would sound like. It was so real, it made it difficult for me to believe that there were humans beneath every costume – that was, until one of the Krampus took off his mask for a breather (his face was cherry red and one could certainly tell the heat and exhaustion endured beneath such a costume).
The Krampus looked so terrifying! They came in all forms and sizes – most of which made me flinch because they were that grotesque. It was quite a parade. It was something… different, that’s for sure.
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This greeting card (above) is something one might receive in substation of a “Merry Christmas” card. Unlike Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus), who concerns himself only with the good children, Krampus is responsible for the bad. Nicholas dispenses gifts, while Krampus supplies coal, ruten bundles and ‘take the naughty children away’ (exactly as it is shown in the greeting card).
The Krampus – although still feared by many young children as they are utilised by these children’s parents to ‘scare’ their children into becoming good children – is slowly becoming a folkloric character we are learning to celebrate and enjoy fun times with. I saw this flyer (above) put up at Marienplatz, and it read: “Keine Angst vorm (vor dem) Krampus” (English: “No fear before the Krampus”). It was used to publicise a photo-taking session with the Krampus characters for young children. I thought, “I wouldn’t even go even if I was paid to!!” I have an unexplainable fear of these ‘creatures’ hahaha! It’s not like I’ve been a bad kid or anything, at least I’d like to think that I haven’t been…
Here’s a little vlog I did of my experience at the Krampuslauf (watch till the end to find out why it turned out to be a somewhat ‘traumatic’ experience for me hahah), enjoy!
Thank goodness we have another year before this takes place again! I may need that long to recover from the terror in my heart… *squirms*