In folklore, Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved, whereas Saint Nicholas, rewards the well-behaved with gifts.
The story goes that when wheeling the good and bad behaviours of the kids, those who weigh more on the naughty side are put in the Krampus bag and taken to a cave in the mountains.
The origin of the figure is unclear; some folklorists and anthropologists have postulated it as having pre-Christian origins.
Not everyone can become a Krampus, it is often " inherited " , but applications are possible where a committee takes the final decision and tests the applicant( this includes various challenges and drinking) .
Some of the costumes, like the Tree Krampus made of pine branches are made anew every year, like the whips in a very fun and social evening.
One the night of the Krampuslauf, the Krampus walk, the Krampuses walk and make a big fuss roaring while their chain rattle and they wave their tips, scaring along any motorists on their way.
They walk from house to house where the bishop reads ut loud in the way of poetry a summary of the children behaviours.
When the naughty behaviours is mentioned the Krampuses roar even more.
In the end the bishop puts the emphasis on the good behaviours and gives advice to rectify the naughty one.
Each house hold feeds and gives drinks t the Grampuses as well which turns the event into a highly social and bonding endeavour.
It is to note that the group I followed refuses to take part in the "organised "parade in the town in 2017 that requires each group of Krampuses to walk from A to B - a tourist show devoid of interaction that they do not resonate with. They feel it is not representative of the spirit and purpose of the tradition, which they want to keep intact.
In 2018 however they accepted to take part on the condition that they can take more time and be allowed to stage a little explanation of the whole story behind the Krampus. They made a little chariot for the fake priest to stand on and a table and chair with a young girl sat, all the while the monsters kneeled in a circle around them, in a humbled and loyal pose.
Later I photographed the other groups, who were a lot more feisty, running towards je crpwds , whipping them, emerging through smokes and pyrotechnics and loud music. It was truly a very cinematographic scare show, each group having their distinctive looks and scenarios.
On this matter it is interesting to note the group attached to the tradition had also the most traditional handmade masks and costumes whole others had a mix of more modern outfits, and even props like a moped
There is an interesting dialogue here between the the purist of the tradition and the concept of folklore turned into a tourist attraction.