You know, we Austrians love traditions. And of course we love strange stories about old men and hairy monsters. That’s why we love Nikolo and Krampus.
So, let me tell you a little (pre-christmas) story. The legend of St. Nicholas (whom we in Austria call Nikolo…because it simply sounds nicer). The real Robin Hood if you like. So listen carefully. Nikolo was a little boy when his parents died, he inherited a lot of gold, silver, palaces and jewelry. But he wasn’t happy, he cried all day and night. One day he found a writing telling the story of a heartless and greedy man, who owned a lot but gave nothing to the poor man who asked him for food. When the poor man died, angels came to pick him up to heaven. When the rich man died, he died completely alone. Nikolo was scared and decided that he didn’t want to end up like the rich man.
So far, so good. Do you already feel the whole christmas spirit…well, let’s continue with our little story telling time.
From this day on Nikolo filled the big pockets in his huge coat with fruits, nuts and other goodies and gave them to the poor. And guess what? He was a lucky boy again, not feeling sad anymore. When he grew older he became a bishop and continued to do good. The kids around town were his biggest fans and always accompanied old Nikolo in his big red coat and his faithful companion, an old, grey donkey. The real St. Nicholas died on the 6th of December in the year 352. Looooong time ago – but people still love him. Especially in Austria. So – as the herald of Christmas – Nikolo day is celebrated on the 6th of December. Kids get tangerines, peanuts, chocolate and other sweets on this day from their parents.
Well, what a wonderful story. I know. Buuuut. What is a good guy without the bad guy. Nothing. Right!?
That’s why Nikolo never comes alone in Austria. He has his….well, let’s call him assistant with him. Let me introduce to you: KRAMPUS. This hairy, stinky, ugly looking anti-gentleman with his scary mask is the nightmare come true of kids, their mothers and generally of all females. Why? Krampus not only punishes naughty children. He also gathers with his other Krampus colleagues and then runs through Austrian villages with wooden sticks in his hand, beating women and making an awful lot of sound with the cowbells around his hairy body. Sounds a little barbarian? Well, yes! The manners in some alpine and rural areas in Austria are rude. So be aware if you hear something like „Perchtenlauf“ or „Krampuslauf“ when you’re around this villages. They might beat you if you’ve been naughty…
Enough stories told for today. We suppose you’ve all been nice and good in the past year. So you don’t have to be afraid of Krampus. Don’t you?!
And why Krampus is a lot cooler than those small, giggly elfs they have in the US knows none other than Austrian Oscar winner Christoph Waltz: