Kim's Austrian Adventure

My year as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in Graz, Austria. Yes, there are other cities in Austria besides Vienna.

3. Dezember 2006

Viele Grüsse vom Krampus

Originally uploaded by Kimmikers.

  • Reading: Patrick Süskind: Das Parfum

  • Listening to: Georges Bizet: Carmen: Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre

  • German Word of the Day: schlagen (past tense geschlagen)

  • Translation: to hit

  • Example: Die Krampusse haben mich zwei mal geschlagen!/The Krampusses hit me twice!

Say hello to Krampus. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about him:

"Often the subject of winter poems and tales, the Companions travel with St. Nicholas or his various equivalents (Father Christmas, Santa Claus), carrying with them a rod (sometimes a stick, bundle of switches or a whip, and in modern times often a broom) and a sack. They are sometimes dressed in black rags, bearing a black face and unruly black hair. In many contemporary portrayals the companions look like dark, sinister, or rustic versions of Nicholas himself, with a similar costume but with a darker color scheme.

Some of the companions take on more monstrous forms. Krampus and Klaubauf are variously depicted as horned, shaggy, bestial, or demonic. In many depictions the Krampus looks like popular images of the Devil, complete with red skin, cloven hooves, and short horns.

In some of the Ruprecht traditions the children would be summoned to the door to perform tricks, such as a dance or singing a song to impress upon Santa and Ruprecht that they were indeed good children. Those who performed badly would be beaten soundly by Servant Ruprecht, and those who performed well were given a gift or some treats. Those who performed badly enough or had committed other misdeeds throughout the year were put into Ruprecht's sack and taken away, variously to Ruprecht’s home in the Black Forest, or to be tossed into a river. In other versions the children must be asleep, and would either awake to find their shoes filled with sweets, coal, or in some cases a stick. Over time, other customs developed: parents giving kids who misbehaved a stick instead of treats and saying that it was a warning from Nikolaus that "unless you improve by Christmas day, Nikolaus' black servant Ruprecht will come and beat you with the stick and you won't get any Christmas gifts." Often there would be variations idiosyncratic to individual families.

In parts of Austria, Krampusse, who local tradition says are (typically children of poor families), roamed the streets and sledding hills during the festival. They wore black rags and masks, dragging chains behind them, and occasionally hurling them towards children in their way. These Krampusumzüge (Krampus runs) still exist, although perhaps less violent than in the past.

Today, Schladming, a town in Styria (my state!), over 1200 "Krampus" gather from all over Austria wearing goat-hair costumes and carved masks (which usually cost about $1400), carrying bundles of sticks used as switches, and swinging cowbells to warn of their approach. They are typically young men in their teens and early twenties and are generally intoxicated. They roam the streets of this typically quiet town and hit people with their switches."

I got hit by a switch and screamed both times, freaking out the kids around me. The Krampusse are really nice to the children, shaking their hands and patting them on their heads, but they enjoy taking unsuspecting American exchange students by surprise and whacking them on the arm/butt. I got hit with a switch twice today.

Apparently they only hit the bad ones.



At 03 Dezember, 2006 17:48, Anonymous Anonym said...

Jeez, those things are frickin' terrifying! I would've screamed, too!

At 06 Dezember, 2006 10:59, Anonymous Anonym said...

You're right, epiletpic Jewish lesbians with Tourret's DO have good taste.

At 07 Dezember, 2006 16:37, Anonymous Anonym said...

Funny, I thought I would be introducing you guys in person come February, but why not do it online now-- Kim, this is my friend Matt, the mad melancholic absurd French-Canadian-Finnish poet. Matt, this is my friend Kim, the fabulous business casual speed-shopping Michigander Germanist.


Now you kids need to shake hands, or slap each other on the ass, or whatever.

At 09 Dezember, 2006 02:15, Blogger kimabroad said...

Aww, you forgot "Prosecco swilling"! But I suppose you already said that in your blog...


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