Many festivals in the world, whose inception go back to pre-Christian times, have been adapted and modified over time to suit modern day customs. One such festival is the Krampusnacht. Krampus, according to a Central European folklore, is a horned figure described as half man, half demon, who, during Christmas season punishes children who misbehave. The Krampus is the counter to Saint Nicholas who rewards well behaved children with gifts.
The history of the Krampus goes back to pre-Christian Alpine traditions and by the 17th century Krampus had been incorporated into Christian winter celebrations
by pairing Krampus with St. Nicholas. Krampus is popular in Austria, Bavaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Northern Italy, Slovakia and Slovenia. In traditional parades for Krampusnacht, young men dress up as Krampus to participate.
As per traditions, Krampus has many appearances. But most of them have some particular physical characteristics. He is hairy, usually brown, or black, with cloven hooves and horns of a goat along with a long-pointed tongue that lolls out to expose his fangs. He carries chains, that is thought to symbolize the binding of the Devil by the Christian Church, which he thrashes for dramatic effect. It is also said that the chain sometimes is accompanied with bells. Sometimes he appears with a bag to cart off evil children for drowning, eating or transporting to hell.
This festival did not have a smooth journey though. After the 1923 elections in Austria, the Krampus tradition was prohibited by the Dollfuss regime under Vaterlandische Front
and the Christian Social Party. In the 1950s, the government discouraged people from reviving this tradition by distributing pamphlets titled “Krampus is an evil man”. But by the turn of the century, Krampus celebrations came back with a bang and continue to be celebrated till today. The Krampus traditions are being revived in Bavaria as well, where they use hand carved wooden masks made according to the local artistic traditions.
Costumes are an integral part of all Krampus celebrations. Costumes are available for, Krampus, Saint Nikolaus, the woodsman, angels and the old woman. You can also use props ranging from bells, a brick switch, basket, chains, to walking staff and a hemp flogger. Or you can just walk around with some plain devil costume and spook people out!
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