Krampusnacht or Krampus Night: The scary side of Christmas in Austria If you’re ever wondering where the grinchy or scary side of Christmas comes from, then look no further than the tradition of Krampus Night in Klagenfurt, Austria. Fairytales come to life on the 5th of December when Santa’s (evil) assistant called “Krampus” parades the […]Krampusnacht 2023 Klagenfurt am Wörthersee, Austria Klagenfurt am Wörthersee Carinthia Austria
If you’re ever wondering where the grinchy or scary side of Christmas comes from, then look no further than the tradition of Krampus Night in Klagenfurt, Austria. Fairytales come to life on the 5th of December when Santa’s (evil) assistant called “Krampus” parades the streets, looking for children that have not been good. Legend has it that the Krampus will beat you with a stick and stuff you into a sack if you haven’t been good enough to receive presents from good old St Nicholas.
Fairytale or nightmare? You decide, but know, it’s all in good fun as this tradition has been reignited in recent years. Teams of young males, from teenagers up to adults have been getting together, dressing up and creating their own hand carved masks to parade in Klagenfurt’s square on the traditional night before Christmas in Austria.
Last year over 1000 Krampuses took part, parading the streets, they cheekily take off children’s beanies and hoods and then ruffle and mess their hair, before going on their merry way. Heavy metal and rock music plays in the background as these half wolf or half goat characters covered in sheep skins bounce around down the road on this eerie and sometimes snowy night before Christmas.
”Become part of the show when you lock eyes with the evil Krampus, Saint Nicholas’s evil twin, who deals with the naughty kids at Christmas in Austria.”
Young children can be on edge, but the Krampus is nice enough, ruffling their hair and high fiving the kids. Some of the kids even give the Krampus hugs. The tradition is more about keeping the old ways alive between the young men now and not scaring children… too much!
Becoming a highlight in the tourist calendar, this creepy but fantastical event is very artistic, the work that has gone into the wood carved masks are truly exceptional.
The Krampus really signifies that to every bright side, there is a dark and sinister side. The Krampus is more of a cautionary tale than that of an evil devil, although it has sometimes been portrayed as such. It’s also a cold season warning to be wary.
Despite the scary nature of the parade the Krampus and other characters such as witches called “Perchte” are friendly enough and once the parade is finished you can see them in the market with their masks taken off, they will be ready to have a chat and a drink with visitors.
Klagenfurt in Austria looks like a Christmas card, with renaissance style buildings, street lamps, cobblestones and covered arcades. It’s fair to say that the setting is magical. Meaning the Krampus is mystical.
The best views are in the township the night of the parade beside the barricades. With over 1000 Krampus figures to enjoy, there is plenty of time to appreciate the shenanigans.
The actual parade is called the Feast of St Nicholas Parade in the Alter Platz ( aka The Old Square), however there are more Krampus Runs held in neighbouring towns during the festive season, and there is Krampus museum in Suetschach.
Get into the front row if you want to be whacked with a broom, receive threatening stares or lose your hat. You will be part of the show if you lock eyes with the Krampus.
Contrary to how it sounds,the event actually oozes Christmas cheer, and the Krampus approaches the kids all in good fun. The Christmas market is on for all of December and is lit up during and after the parade, the whole town is brightly lit and alive with people and other magical beings. It’s a winter wonderland when the snow falls. An amazing place to be in December.
Warm cosy clothes are a must, there is no requirement for dress ups. The men who have entered (there are competitions at some of the Krampus runs) have their own Krampus look, and so much work has gone into their handmade masks, but everyone in the crowd comes along in their own coats, hats, gloves and scarves.
Wool and fleece garments
Insulated water bottle – to it will freeze
Winter thermal vests and leggings for extra warmth
Krampus runs are cultural parades and are free events. However there are food and drink vendors as well as a huge festive Christmas Market.
Krampus Parades (or runs, as they call them), are celebrated in about 40 villages located across Austria. The parades roughly take place December 5, 2023.
The Christmas market is just as unique as the parade, showcasing local artisans that make candles, woolen goods, woodwork, candy and handmade ornaments.
If you’re lucky enough to get hit with the birch broom called ruten, it might sting. Pray you get a gentle Krampus!
Buy the Krampus a drink after the parade and you might get something nice in your shoe come the morning.
Thought to be dreamt up by creative townspeople in the Middle Ages, the Krampus was envisioned to discipline small and gullible children right up to the day before Christmas (which was traditionally is December 6in Austria)
The tradition, which could be over 1,500 years old, has over the years depicted the Krampus as half-goat in some areas and half-demon in others.
Austria’s version of Santa, Saint Nicholas was said to leave the good children presents in their shoes on December 6, while bad children would get coal in their shoes, or worse, if the Krampus found you on December 5, he would beat you with a birch stick and throw you into his own sack. The Krampus had his own team of evil elves, which are now-a days witches called the “Perchte”.
The Krampus parade in Klagenfurt now features all these characters, plus in some towns they were cow bells, or drag chariots that are lit by fire on huge chains down the parade route.
Klagenfurt is the alpine region of Austria is filled with natural beauty, as well as many picturesque villages that dot the landscape. It’s literally like visiting those beautifully drawn fairytale books. Theres lots to do in the area, including walks and skiiing, as well as visiting local candlemakers and artisans, architectural cathedrals, and drinking hot chocolate in beautiful surroundings.
You can take a guided castle bike tour with a trained local Austrian guide. With a group, you can enjoy the picturesque garden, paths and lake of Falkenberg Castle, beginning from Maria Loretto Castle. If you’re lucky you may meet one of the Lords of the Castle, who can be in residence when the tours are operating. Swish!
Traditional fare at the market includes a mulled wine called glühwein, which is complimented by warm roasted chestnuts.
Klagenfurt has an International airport, flying in from major European destinations daily. Major international airlines from Australia, the UK and American all fly into this airport.
Bus and rail also operated from many destinations around Europe into Klagenfurt, and you can use the Euro Tunnel from London to get there via car.
You can find unique places to stay all over this region. Opulent renaissance-style hotels, motels, alpine resorts, castles, lodges, guesthouses, airBNB’s and backpacking hostels.
Pension Wachau is a picturesque alpine hotel with balcony rooms, large screen TV’s and Wifi. It is located an easy 1.5km from Worth Lake and the public beach. There is mountain views, friendly staff and a nice traditional breakfast.
You buy 24 hour passes or single tickets for the Bus Klagenfurt service that transits around the the entire town. There is also a reliable taxi service that operates in the area. A taxi to a neighboring town can cost around €12.00.
Plan ahead: Book your perfect trip with our Austria travel guide and destination information. Does Austria require a visa? Check the visa requirements before you get caught up during your travel.
Spend money wisely: Take public transport and dine in from time to time are common saving tips during traveling. How to spend money wisely in Austria? Make use of technology. There’s an app for everything.
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