I had never heard of Krampus before coming to Austria, we do not have this tradition in the UK. I went to the Tuiflverein Axams event to find out what it’s all about.

Different traditions

Traditionally, we celebrate Christmas in the UK on 25th December, Santa with his reindeers and his Slay, deliver presents to children’s houses on the night of 24th December. Here in Austria, Santa Claus comes on 6th December, it is the Christmas Child (Christkind) who delivers presents to the children on the 24th. The 25th is a day for playing with the toys and gifts and go skiing/sledging (when in the alpine region).

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Krampus’ teaching people how to behave. Photo: Ashley Wiggins.

What is Krampus?

On the 5th, Santa Claus comes to town with an angel and a devil (Krampus). Santa goes from house to house to tell stories to the children and ask them if they’ve been good or not. If the child has been good, the angel gives them treats, if not, then the devil rattles its chains and cow bells.

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Welcome to Axams. Photo: Ashley Wiggins.

Tuiflverein Axams

Axams is a village about 15 minutes drive from Innsbruck. This is very close to the famous Axamer Lizum ski area, where the Winter Olympic ski races were held. I went there on Saturday 12th November for the Tuiflverein Axams event, which is an annual meet up of many Krampus groups from different areas of Tirol and South Tirol and keeps an important tradition alive.

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A show on fire. Photo: Ashley Wiggins.

Held in the swimming pool car park, there were a few hundred people, adults as well as children. There was a parade/stage area with pyrotechnics, professional lighting rig and a big sound system. From the fence barrier, the crowd were watching the different choreographed shows, created by the different Krampus groups.

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Krampus’ intimidating the crowd. Photo: Ashley Wiggins.

Some kids were really frightened, some seemed to enjoy it. Even some adults looked a bit scared and I can understand why. The Krampus are guys and girls dressed up in furry/bear type outfits with amazingly sculptured masks.

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Krampus scaring children. Photo: Ashley Wiggins.

Krampus costumes

The masks are usually made out of wood and they look excellent, like something from a horror movie and better than any Halloween mask I’ve seen. They cost hundreds of euros and the whole outfit could cost up to a thousand euros, if not more.

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Krampus mask. Photo: Ashley Wiggins.

The costumes add a lot of height and width to the person playing the Krampus character, making them even more intimidating. Not only is the look scary, but it’s how they act. They walk and tilt their heads in a strange and slow motion, then unpredictably run and at the audience, grabbing them and pushing the fence barrier, causing the audience to scream. It’s all part of the fun and the choreography.

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Krampus coming at the crowd. Photo: Ashley Wiggins.

A spectacular show

Chains, cow bells, fire on sticks, flares and smoke bombs are their props to enhance the intimidation even further. Loud thrash metal music being played, fire blazing pyros and the different Krampus teams make it a spectacular show. The audience really enjoyed themselves, I think many children learned some very important lessons. 

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Choreographed Krampus. Photo: Ashley Wiggins.

The evening continued with more shows, live music and a DJ for the whole family to enjoy. Great family fun and kids learn from a young age to be good, or the devils will take them away. 

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Some kids were not scared at all. Photo: Ashley Wiggins.

I’m looking forward to the Devils run in December. For more info on this and the Santa Claus parade, check out the Innsbruck website.