The Krampus in East Tyrol

St Nikolaus's scary companions.

An old custom dictates that Santa Claus (St Nikolaus) never comes alone when he visits the children on December 6. The figures that accompany him do not, however, seem to fit in with the presence of this holy man. Depending on where they are from they have different names: Krampus, Klaubauf, Knecht Ruprecht, Pelzmärtel, Rauwuckel, Butz, Toifi (Teufel means devil in German) or Rumpelblas. In Old Bavaria they still refer to Ganggerl and they mean the devil. These rather frightening characters are basically bogeymen that date back to the times when people still lived in fear of evil powers.

Krampus time is observed al over East Tyrol at the beginning of December. For those who have never heard fo this custom it is a truly spectacular experience. On the final day, December 6, all the Krampus guilds get together for a joint parade in Lienz. The traditional ringing of the bells signifies that the evil spirits have been driven out.