St. Nicholas & Krampus in South Tyrol
St. Nicholas with his long white beard, his bishop’s mitre and crozier is loved by all children as he comes with a lot of presents and sweets each year on December 6th as long as they have behaved well. Just as in other regions in the Eastern Alps, St. Nicholas is often accompanied by the Krampus. These dark and hairy creatures are as well-loved by many kids and adults; others however are afraid and do not like him at all.
Originally, St. Nicholas and Krampus always came together. The Krampus, or devil, used to threaten the naughty and bad children with a rod or to take them away in a big chest on their backs. Despite that the Krampus was a frightening creature with heavy chains and loud cowbells, he always had to obey St. Nicholas. This fact symbolises the good triumphing over the evil.
The Krampus’ origins
The Krampus or devil, such as many demonic creatures of the Alpine area – dates back to pre-Christian times. In many regions, the Krampus figure has merged with the Perchten tradition. The typical Krampus has a coat or suit made of fur and hand-carved mask with horns. In South Tyrol, pine wood was and is the most used wood type for these masks. A collection of worth-seeing Krampus, devils and witch masks is for instance also displayed at the Crib Museum Maranatha in Luttach.
Whereas the Krampus must obey St. Nicholas in former times, the Krampus parades today are majorly just for the Krampus and witches. In South Tyrol, many villages and cities organise Krampus parades, some with over 1000 Krampus. The oldest Krampus parade takes place each year in Toblach, a big parade every two years in Kastelruth with more than 50 groups from Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Other parades take place in Sexten and Lana. Bruneck and Sand in Taufers alternately organise a Krampus parade with many Krampus from the Alpine area.