They look scary – but actually they’re totally harmless: about 300 masked beings frighten passers-by during the big traditional run of the Krampus via the Munich Christmas Market on Sunday, December 9th 2018 from 3 to 5 pm and Sunday, December 23rd 2018 from 4 to 5 pm.
The Krampus is the scary assistant of kind Saint Nicholas. Whereas the latter likes to turn a blind eye when children are naughty, the Krampus prefers to rattle his chain in a terrifying manner, to attain the required level of respect and to reprimand his disagreeable contemporaries. The Krampus Run dates back 500 years to a tradition from the Alpine regions. As early as the 16th century, the so-called “Klabaufs” paraded around: Schoolchildren, choirmasters and school teachers of the Frauenkirche and St Peter’s church dressed up as bishops and caused so much unrest that the policed had to be summoned. The tradition of the Krampus Run is once again very popular, especially among young people.
The elaborately designed costumes are reordered every year and differ according to the figure portrayed. The “Perchten” who were originally used to drive away the winter, wear between 4 and 10 horns, while the Krampuses can be recognised by their two-horn mask. One costume costs between 1800 and 2500 EUR. But the Krampus outfits are not only expensive but also really heavy to wear. A mask can easily weight up to 10 kilograms – no wonder that the runners are really out of puff after the Krampus run…
Krampus’s name is derived from the German word krampen, meaning claw, and is said to be the son of Hel in Norse mythology. The legendary beast also shares characteristics with other scary, demonic creatures in Greek mythology, including satyrs and fauns.
The legend is part of a centuries-old Christmas tradition in Germany, where Christmas celebrations begin in early December. Krampus was created as a counterpart to kindly St. Nicholas, who rewarded children with sweets. Krampus, in contrast, would swat “wicked” children, stuff them in a sack, and take them away to his lair.
According to folklore, Krampus purportedly shows up in towns the night of December 5, known as Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night. The next day, December 6, is Nikolaustag, or St. Nicholas Day, when children look outside their door to see if the shoe or boot they’d left out the night before contains either presents (a reward for good behavior) or a rod (bad behavior).