While songs like “Holly Jolly Christmas” are running through America’s head and visions of sugar plums entertain children, Austria offers something quite different. Over here, one might be hearing something similar to “This is Halloween” or getting into a very spooky mood because of a little something that is called the Krampus.
The Krampus is an old Austrian folk tale where little demon-folk steal naughty children and young girls away from their family, similar to a really demented version of the pied piper, except with chains and whips to discipline the children.
Nowadays it’s a type of “fun” holiday tradition at the Advent markets, which we are so lucky to have at the Kartause. Essentially what happens now is at nightfall there is fire and heavy metal music playing and smoke is “blocking” all the exits. From the seemingly thick smoke emerges the Krampus – but not just one, there are between ten and twenty delightful little demons.
They begin to search the crowds for small children to take away or pretty young girls that they are all too eager to scare. They are clad in skeletal heads complete with astonishing horns and real animal fur. They seem to be hybrids of multiple dead animals that may have seemed adorable alive but are terrifying dead. It’s any horror buff’s dream come true.
Once the Krampus comes out, the viewers are oftentimes safe behind a chain, but as the flames, fireworks and macabre madness continues, somehow the chains seemingly disappear and the Krampus comes out to hunt down all those vulnerable.
Naturally it is all in good fun, but this type of tradition is not for the faint of heart. You hear little girls screaming, and see little children crying. But it’s most of the time fun for the average young adult, especially if you have never seen anything like it before.
I got the chance to witness this event, and as I am a connoisseur of creepy things from time to time, I enjoyed this very much. Sure the Krampus would “scare” you, but oftentimes you could come up and take pictures with them (which I enjoyed doing). It was something seemingly straight out of a horror movie (in fact they made one about it and I believe it’s on Netflix), but in my opinion there is a huge theological meaning behind it. I don’t know how true it is, but here is my opinion.
Advent is a time of waiting for Our Savior to be born, so before he is born, evil must run rampant. The Krampus only comes around during Advent, or the last few weeks before the human race has the possibility to be saved. Which means as we mortals dwell in anticipation for the greatest thing to happen on this earth, the Evil One is attempting one last hurrah before facing inevitable doom.
That’s my personal take on the whole Krampus thing, and of course being a Franciscan student I enjoy trying my hand at a bit of a theological interpretation. Overall, I think that this Advent market eve of the Krampus was one of the most fun evenings I have had here at the Kartause, and was an excellent wrap up as I leave Austria in seven days to come back to the good old USA. As excited as I am, I have made some of the greatest memories here and will be coming back a different person. It truly is the semester of a lifetime.