Austrians have some strange folklore, but perhaps the one which is the most disturbing, especially for kids, is the Krampus. Saint Nicholas is the good guy that rewards the well-behaved kids with gifts on December 6th. But instead of simply telling kids in Austria that he simply won’t come if they are naughty, what they get told is the following:
“If you are naughty the Krampus will find you, pack you in his sack, and take you back with him to hell.”
That’s right, kids! And one thing I haven’t mentioned yet… Krampus are among the ugliest, scariest looking creatures I have ever seen. For example, some of their defining characteristics include:
- Extreme hairiness
- The horns and hooves of a goat
- Long, pointed tongues that loll out
The night before Saint Nicholas is set to deliver gifts to the good children, the Krampus take to the streets to terrorise and take the naughty children away. As a firm advocate of small children being terrorised (of course only in mild, non-harmful ways), this is definitely my kind of tradition!
So, on a cold winter’s night in December, parents drag their terrified kids to the annual Krampus pilgrimage. No child (or anyone for that matter) is safe. The Krampus patrol the streets in terrifying gangs, plucking children from the crowd and carrying them off down the street, beating them and anyone else along the way, with birch sticks.
Personally, I quite enjoy the festivities, clinging onto a cup of hot cider and giggling at the wide-eyed children, while at the same time being quietly terrified myself as the Krampus make their way down the street, dressed from head to toe in homemade costumes, complete with amazing, highly detailed masks that they’ve painstakingly crafted over the preceding months. It’s serious art! I have been whacked with birch leaves until my legs hurt, carried off down the street and had my beanie stolen too many times to count.
But despite its frightening nature, you have to admit that for kids the threat of being carted off to hell is a little more motivating than just missing out on presents if they’re naughty!
And if you haven’t seen this before, you need to watch this clip of Austria’s Christopher Waltz talking to Jimmy Fallon about the Krampus.
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