A cold blustery evening, the sun has set. All bundled up with your friends and family by your side, in the town square you eagerly wait for the show to begin. Everyone told you that this you had to see, for not only was the show exciting, the culture couldn’t be beat. The square gets darker and soon a low rumble begins. An announcer’s voice starts to tell the story of Krampus and St. Nick. Slowly terrifying horned creatures fill the square carrying switches and sticks, bells clanging.
This begins the Krampus show that we went to this past month.
Krampus has been set deep in the culture here and is known just as widely as St. Nick and Santa Claus. There is a troupe of performances who dress up in costume and put on a great fire show to tell the story and activities of Krampus during the Christmas Season. Before we chat on the performance I’ll share a bit of the history of Krampus that we know.
Krampus dates back to when pre-Germanic tribes practiced paganism and originally had no relation to Christmas. Krampus is described in folklore as a half goat half demon creature and beyond dating him to pre-Germanic origins, there really isn’t much more history on Krampus. Saint Nicholas became popular around the 11-12th century, with Krampus following suit in the 16th century. During the 16th century masked devils would run around acting as nuisances opposite of the St. Nicholas displays. In modern times Krampus “flies” with St. Nicholas on December 5 punishing all the bad little boys and girls (while St. Nicholas awards the good children). Krampus has horns on the top of his head, a long tongue, a face that seems to be in a perpetual howl or evil expression, chains (as an attempt to bind him), and hooves. He typically carries a birch switch and has bells somewhere on his person.
A much darker version has Krampus kidnapping and torturing those who are bad (which is what has been picked up in America/Hollywood/Movie Producers).
There are a couple different ways to see Krampus, one is a performance (which is what we did), the second is a Krampus Run (which is something the bigger cities will hold), and the third is to run into him at a Christmas Market. The one thing they all have in common is that Krampus has no boundaries. His job is to cause havoc and mischief and he definitely succeeds at that.
When I originally heard about Krampus, I knew I wanted to go to one of the fire shows. It seemed the best way to experience the entire “effect” of Krampus. You see him both causing mischief (as the no boundaries includes the shows), but also how they work with the fire.
I’ll let the pictures from the show do most of the talking for this post, but let me just say this, if you EVER have a chance to go to a Krampus fire performance…go. It was so cool to not only see Krampus, but also see the work that they did with the fire, see the performers in their element, and feel the culture of Krampus and the Christmas Season.
He is terrifying (especially if you go up and ask for a picture- if you have any boundary issues DO NOT do this), but at the same time, there is something inherently awesome about the whole show. The troupe that we saw was Oberpfalzer Schlossteufeln e.V. and they were fantastic. They truly put on a show and they lived up to the Krampus legend.
And that was our Bavarian Cultural Evening for the Christmas season. We did combine it with attending the Christmas Market at Amberg, but the market itself was quite small so I didn’t have enough to really make a good market post on it.