When you think of Halloween, you think trick or treat, pumpkins and ghosts, with your mind wandering to those scary movies set in America. How often do you associate Austria with Halloween? Known for its ski holidays, beautiful mountains and of course, the Sound of Music, the Krampus Parade, which our friends at Betway told us all about, is one of the most popular festivals in Europe, often gets overlooked, perhaps with good reason.
It takes place on the eve of 5th December, preceding the Feast of St Nicholas, so although it is over a month after the spooky festival of Halloween, it does have its similarities – a nighttime parade with scary costumes, masks, horns, acrobatics, and fire.
So why is it that only some countries this is a yearly event, and the bigger question, in the current climate that we live in, is it appropriate? In fact, after the 1932 election in Austria, the traditions of the Krampus festivities were banned, but now there is a resurgence of the celebrations, starting with tv sightings in cartoons like Scooby Doo or American Dad. In 2017, Krampus or ‘evil santa’ was out on the streets of Whitby where he was even compared to the adored character The Gruffalo. Children are curious. They are eager to explore the unknown. Though perhaps this is a character that, unlike the wonderful characters of Julia Donaldson who inspire happiness, is not child friendly or suitable.
Krampus is a half-goat, half-man demon, and originated in Pagan times. He is hairy, has hooves and horns with a long-pointed tongue and fangs. It is said that he carries chains or branches which he uses to beat bad children. Encouraging such behavior from a fictional character seems hypocritical in a world that has moved beyond this, even though it may have its historical origins.
It is said that he is the opposite of Saint Nicholas, aka Santa Claus, who as we all know, brings presents and gifts for all the ‘good boys and girls,’ which, traditionally, he had made with his elves. Saint Nicholas brings joy and happiness. There is excitement, anticipation and he unites families and friends for the wonderful festivities. On the contrary, it appears that Krampus brings fear and pain, which is perhaps a reason that it is not wildly celebrated. Halloween may be scary with its witches and ghouls, but it is fun, harmless, and child-centered – with sweets.
Krampus has an army of grumpy, nasty elves, who in fact, hurt, scare, and take those who have been lazy, drunk, or just bad. Parents scare their children into being good so that they are not taken away by Krampus and his elves. Fear of abduction is rife in the 21st century and there is not a week that goes by where it is not in the news. Saddening, terrifying, and sickening to think that this is the world our children are growing up in and that there are festivals which celebrate such behavior and encourage parents to merely scare their children into being good so that they are not carried away in a sack.
A Festival – a day or period of celebration – that unites families and communities; the Krampus parade may not be lime Halloween, but it is full of somersaults, silly costumes, and torches, but the message behind the 5th December is very different.