Strange Austrian Traditions: Krampus

In Austria, December 5th is known as Krampus Day.  As the evil counterpart of St. Nicholas, a religious version of Santa who brings chocolates and other sweets on December 6th, Krampus terrorizes Austrian villages the day before St. Nicholas’ arrival.  Krampus often accompanies St. Nicholas and punishes the bad children (or adults) by whipping them with rods and chains. I have also been told that the children are either taken to hell in a basket on Krampus’ back, or some say they are simply kidnapped for a few hours. Especially in smaller towns, men (and some women) dress in masks, sheep’s wool, and devil like horns, then run through the streets frightening (or delighting?) children.  Cheerful, no?  See a Krampus picture here.

Of all the Austrian traditions, I think this one is the strangest. As I’m not a fan of costumes or horror, I managed to successfully avoid a perchtenlauf, the German word for the running of the costumed Krampuses.  Austrians seem to think this is tremendous fun and a great thing to take children to.  Supposedly the children also think that Krampus is funny and entertaining.  I guess Austrian children just have more of a backbone than I do. 

Steven Colbert has a good clip about Krampus.  You can watch it here.

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Update

Oh my gosh!  I didn’t realize it had been a whole month since I’d last written!  A lot has gone on in the last month. I saw Lady Gaga.  She was, of course, phenomenal (and insane…she tore a teddy bear in half with her teeth).  In addition to her amazing music,she also had a good message-be who you are and don’t worry about what other people think. Oh, and I was also extremely impressed that the Fame Monster was represented by an anglerfish.  The anglerfish is quite possibly my favorite deep sea animal.  For those of you unfamiliar with the anglerfish, please go here

Moving on, there was also an IES reunion.  IES is the institute in Vienna where I studied abroad.  They were celebrating their 60th anniversary.  It was nice seeing old friends, many of whom are also teaching in Austria.  I was also able to meet a few people that had studied at IES before me. It was interesting to see how many people now live and work in Vienna.

Last weekend my friends and I celebrated Thanksgiving, complete with canned cranberry sauce (courtesy of the American/British store in Vienna).  It came a few days late and amongst some confusion (an Austrian friend thought it was okay to postpone Thanksgiving until Dec. 12th!), but I think it was rather successful.  Except for my pumpkin pie.  I think a good pie tin is key to making a good pie.  You can not use a) a very shallow, British tin or b) a frying pan.  Neither of those yielded very good pies. 

Currently, it is snowing a ridiculous amount outside. It started snowing last weekend and there has not been much of a break since then.  Although I’m not too fond of snow, I think I prefer it to rain in the winter.  The view outside my window is stunning as well with everything covered in white.  I just hope that I’m not stuck here until the snow stops!

(Actually, this is a picture from a train, but you get the idea…)