THE 500-YEAR OLD KRAMPUS RUN TRADITION IS MAKING A COMEBACK:
Christmas trees, open-air market stalls, glühwein, Christmas angels, Santa Claus and Christmas carols are some of the familiar attractions that make up the festive spirit at the Munich Christkindlmarkt on Marienplatz. As we stroll around the square, soaking in the Christmas market atmosphere, a loud commotion erupts from Rosenstrasse, just off Marienplatz.
Imagine our surprise at seeing evil-looking creatures roaming the Munich Christmas market. Instead of spreading Christmas cheer, they seem to put fear into the crowd. Unbeknown to us at the time, it is the “Krampus Run”, a centuries old Alpine folkloric tradition featuring the mythological Krampus.
So who is this Krampus?
Krampus is an emissary of evil who usually accompanies Saint Nicholas on his rounds. Whereas the good Saint Nicholas (upon whom it is said Santa Claus is modelled), goes around rewarding good children with gifts at Christmas time, his companion Krampus on the contrary puts fear into wicked people and unruly children. These masked devils are so ugly and evil-looking, they even scare grown-ups like me.
A 500-year Old Tradition
The Krampus Run (Krampuslauf) is a 500-year old tradition that has become popular again in Germany in recent times. Although the origin of the Krampus figure is unclear, some say that it dates back to pre-Christian times and may be a Germanic pagan figure.
In the past, the Krampus Run used to be raucous and quite rowdy. Any unaware or inattentive pedestrians who didn’t make it to safety in time unwittingly became part of the action. They were shaken up by the creatures and sometimes ended up on the ground.
Luckily for me, these days the Krampus Run is considerably toned down from their rough historical predecessors. To get clear photos, I step onto the street and at one stage find myself surrounded by these creatures.
With my camera jammed to my face, I only realize this a bit late when at the end of my camera lens, I see an absolutely ugly creature staring back at me. Lowering my camera, I hesitate for a moment, wondering whether to make a run for safety, or take a shot and then run. The photo opportunity is too good to miss so I take a few steps back, shoot and then make a run for cover, hoping that my camera flash will not upset the creature.
The Sparifankerl Pass is the first Krampus group in Munich to resurrect the centuries old winter tradition. The members in the group don’t get paid for their performances. They do the Krampus Run for the sheer fun of it. In fact they have to fork out their own money for the costumes which cost a couple of thousand Euros each.
So if you’re at the Munich Christkindlmarkt, don’t be surprised to see the devil himself showing up. And if you’ve been bad, be afraid as Krampus will seek you out.