05 December 2007

Krampus!

Travel flashback: December 5, 2002, Salzburg, Austria

December 6 is St. Nicholas Day. yes, that St. Nik aka the Bishop of Myra, aka Santa Claus. The night before, is known as Krampusnacht.


Krampus making new friend outside a bar in Salzburg
In the Salzburgerland, St. Nik (dressed as a bishop) is always preceded by a pack of horrifying devils. Krampus wears a shaggy suit of fur, carved mask with horns, and large iron bells,  and an apple basket or bag on his back. His job: beat the bad children with bundles of sticks, stuff them in baskets or bags, or otherwise punish them, while St Nik doles out treats to the good kids. The sounds of the bells sends the children running (either to or from.)

We found a bunch of these guys bar-hopping along the river: after they'd done with their more official duties in the Mozartplatz, they were using their super cool costumes to charm women.

A lovely Weiner Werkstätte style greeting card, circa 1900


The Krampus tradition is also popular in other parts of Europe in various forms, and a common subject in Victorian greeting cards.

How my family managed all these decades without an annual visit from the Krampusse is beyond me.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lynne...I remember learning about Krampusse from you in a post you put out a couple of years ago. It struck me when I read this post that you mentioned the fondness Victorians had for putting this image on their cards. Such an unusual combination in many aspects of the Victorian culture....overwhelming sentimentality underlined with menace and sexual overtones...ie, Krampusse, The Grimm brothers stories, etc. The German and English connections enhanced by Hapsburg royal connections.
    I loved the Grimm Brothers stories (unbowdlerized)as a little girl, and I probably would have looked on Krampusse with fear and delight. "What big teeth you have, Krampusse"

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