St. Nicholas visits children throughout Austria on the 6th December, he is accompanied by a devil like, half man half goat figure called Krampus. This nocturnal festival is a tradition that has the ability to scare young and old and seems to involve lots of cow bells and alcohol. One of the reasons we all love to travel is to experience new cultures and traditions. Are you ready to embrace the darker side of Christmas?
Last year Lottie, from MoaAlm Mountain Retreat, experienced her first Christmas in Austria and her first encounter with Krampus...
Ever heard of a Krampus? I had not until a snowy night deep in the the Kals valley. It was the first day of advent, so
it was no surprise when St. Nicholas came bundling into the cosy wood clad bar accompanied by a choir of angels.
What a lovely tradition I thought, as the locals who had been propping up the bar quietened as he unrolled a scroll
and read aloud. But then the mood changed, Santa finished reciting and glancing out of the steamy windows we
watched as three huge masked figures emerged. The faces were grotesque. Huge tongues lolled out of gaping
mouths, wide, glaring eyes were framed by scraggly untamed hair, and on their backs, huge metal cow bells rang
to announce their arrival.
The men of the bar stumbled out into the cold, where, one by one they took on the Krampus and one by one, they
were thrown to the ground, clothing torn and knuckles bleeding. The Krampus accompanied St Nik on a tour of the
village, stopping to terrify children into being good - in my opinion, a far more effective threat than a lump of coal on
Christmas morning. Who knew that Christmas could have such a dark, terrifying side?
Luckily Christmas at MoaAlm Mountain Retreat is a little less scary, and rather more relaxed. We enjoy a week of snowshoe hiking and cross country skiing in the stunning snowy mountains. Christmas dinner is a plantbased five course feast and accompanied by local schnapps and Austrian wine. In the evening we build a huge fire in the fire pit and sit chatting beneath the stars.
We are looking forward to the coming season in the mountains. Krampus and the festivities of St Nicholas is on the 6th December, MoaAlm Mountain Retreat, with it's more relaxed and less scarier atmosphere opens for the start of the Winter season the day after.