Scaring the Crap outta Children Across Europe

Last post I said that there wasn’t anything wrong with Christmas time in Austria. I’m snapping that comment back like a trout on a fly-fishing line. I forgot all about the Krampus. Sheesh.

On Saturday Markus, Annie, my mom, cousin Lilli and I set out for the Krampus celebrations in Igls, about 15 minutes out side of Innsbruck. We were there a bit early so had time for a foot-long sausage and a piping gl├╝hwein. Annie and Lilli ran around in the snow and played with other kids. There was one round of Krampus’ going by, but Annie held it together pretty well.

For those who missed the post last year, a Krampus is a demon-like creature who accompanies St. Nicholas. Parents call on the Krampus to terrorize their children into behaving. As in, “If you aren’t good the Krampus will come and steal you away and eat you.” Seriously. I shouldn’t be that surprised, given that this is the land of fairy tales like Cinderella (Aschenputtel), where the ugly step-sisters cut off their toes and heels to make the glass slipper fit. The tell-tale gush of blood is what gives them away to the prince.

And don’t get any ideas that I’m exaggerating on the scariness part; Krampus is this

DSC03474

And this

DSC03477

And these dudes

DSC03467

Once dusk hit the gathering was in full swing. Several wooden-masked creatures with giant cow bells and rope switches wandered through the packed crowd growling and pushing people and whipping them. There were literally dozens of toddlers screaming and crying and pleading to their parents to protect them. All they got was a toss of the head and a “you’d better be good then” comment.

Amidst this comes St. Nicholas, whose costume is a cross between a Bishop and Santa Claus. He comes with a host of children dressed as angels and hands out hundreds of sacks filled with chocolate, nuts and oranges.

I appreciate that the whole concept of elves accompanying Santa Claus is odd, but these German-speaking people are whacked, I tell you.

Last year during these “festivities” Annie was in a stroller and it was easy to divert her attention from the scarier beasts. This year she was sitting on top of Markus’ shoulders, with a bird’s eye view of the hell-dwelling monsters. She, of course, wanted to get a present. But, just to ensure no sadistic stone is left unturned, there are two Krampus’ on the stage amongst St. Nic and the angels. So Annie stands in line with Lilli, then starts screaming to go home as she nears the stage and sees the Krampus up close. Good. Let’s get out of here. Then she is wailing because she doesn’t have a present. So we go back and I tell her to close her eyes until we can snatch a sack and make a run for it.

As Markus was happy to point out, she didn’t seem worse for wear, stopping to build a snowman with Lilli on the way back to the car. But I have no doubt that there will be some nightmares over this in the days to come.

Next year, should we be in Europe, I’m not forgetting this craziness. No more Krampus for you, Annie-girl. You’ll just have to learn to sleep in longer without the threat of a terrifying and painful death.

One Response to “Scaring the Crap outta Children Across Europe”

  1. Lori says:

    Very funny, Hils … if you’re in Europe next December we’ll be there for a visit, and we’ll support you whole-heartedly in skipping the Krampus “event”. I’d say Annie has good instincts in running scared!
    Love from Lori