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Jump to Salzburg, Austria where Krampus is coming to town
The first entry for Circus Living's special travel feature 'Chasing Monsters'

 © Österreich Werbung, Photographer: Semrad

Sure, most of us have heard of Santa, and I am certain some parents have used Santa to incite good behaviour from their children. Then, there's Elf on a Shelf, that creepy little bugger that was designed to blackmail...I mean, encourage nice behaviour from our kids or else he reports back to Santa about how naughty they have been. Both Santa and the Elf no longer work on my children. They just do not scare easily or perhaps they just do not take us seriously when we threaten naughty kids do not receive presents for Christmas. I know, I know, what a way to start of the true meaning of the Holidays but when you have three young unruly kids with minds of their own and stubborn like their father, you get desperate.

And my desperation lead me to Austria where Santa's beastly demonic companion, the Krampus pervades the Holiday celebrations. Whereas Santa rewards good children with presents, the Krampus whips naughty children with rods, stuffs them in a sack, and takes them away to his lair. No presents for naughty kids? Hah! That's the least of their worries when they have to deal with Krampus' wrath.

Krampus comes from German folklore and traditionally, it is believed that on December 5th, the night before St. Nicholas' day, children have to place their boots by a window to find out if they are in Santa's nice or Krampus' naughty list. The good kids get a gift from St. Nicholas while bad kids get a stick in their boot from Krampus. This stick is no measly lump of coal. This stick carries with it the foreboding feeling that Krampus is on his way to take you back to his lair.

Historically, Austrian's Christmas celebrations involved the Krampus. At some point during the 20th century, the Austrian government attempted to halt this tradition citing it was anti-Christian due to its pagan roots. Krampus runs or Krampuslaufen as they are known where participants dress up as the demon and terrorize parade-goers still exist in Austria today and there is still an ongoing debate as to whether these celebrations are appropriate for children.

And there are numerous amounts of children who attend these Krampus runs in Austria. The run is usually a sight to behold. The participants arrive completely decked out in hairy beast-like or demon-like attire, carrying chains or rods, completely in character while old St. Nicholas walks among them. A carnival of sorts, a subversion of what has come to be expected during the Holidays. The Krampuslaufen is an excellent example of what known theorist Bhaktin dubs as the 'carnivalesque'. The Krampuslaufen affords its participants and its onlookers the opportunity to challenge the 'niceties' and the often commercialized images associated with St. Nicholas and the Holidays in general. Who cares about presents? The Holidays should not be about receiving presents, it should be about the Krampus coming to whip your naughty and spoiled children (well, I am speaking of mine anyway)!

Hehe, in all seriousness, the Krampus run is worth attending to experience a different side of the Holidays and a great opportunity to meet the known terrifying mystical counterpart to Old St. Nick. In the next while, there will be a few Krampus runs that are going to be held in Austria. Namely, popular runs coming up include the Maxglander Krampuslauf which will be held on December 8 in Salzburg-Maxglan, the Krampuslauf on December 5 in Salzburg-Maxglan, and the Perchtenlauf on December 21 in Salzburger Christkindlmarkt.

So, when planning a trip to Austria, do not forget about encountering this legendary creature during the Holidays. A visit to Austria during the Holidays would not be complete without meeting the historically-rooted Krampus. And for those of you who are curious, I did use Krampus as a form of blackmail to reign in our boisterous children but it only worked for an evening - common problem when you have kids that are accustomed to horror films - they just do not scare easily! In a Krampus run, they would be the kids clapping and laughing along. I am ashamed to admit that the Krampus may have met his match with our children - some days, they truly are more terrifying than the demon himself.

Krampus is coming? Poor Seamus thinks Santa is scary enough!

Special thanks to Teresa Faudon from the Austrian Tourist Office for providing me with the information and multimedia I needed!

Austrian Tourist Office