Who is the so-called Krampus?

I really must admit it: I'm still afraid of the Krampus. The Krampus is part of an Austrian tradition, where people dress up as scary figures, who usually have long horns and a furry body. You can already hear them from a distance, because of their loud bells. However, under the scary mask, there hides just a human. If you know this fact, the Krampusse aren’t as scary anymore.

Let’s have a talk with the Krampus

People are afraid of the unknown. What could be a better therapy than talking and getting to know someone who dresses up as a Krampus every year? I met Alexander Kruch, who keeps the tradition of the Krampus alive for nearly 25 years now. He was 7 years old, when he put on a Krampus suit and mask for the first time. With 11 years, he already was a fully adequate member of one of the countless Krampuspass (clubs of Krampus), the Wallnerpass. The club was founded in 1994 by the army sports club. Most of the founders of the Wallnerpass were soldiers or members of the administration board of the army, so they decided to establish the section of customs and traditioins in the barracks of the city of Saalfelden.

It’s important to keep traditions

It’s easy to see that the Wallnerpass values traditions and customs. They are rooted in traditions, which exist since decades and explain them to younger ones. The youngest Krampus is only 5 years old. When there is a show, the youngest ones are allowed to go first, accompanied by adults.

Even today, again and again, adults join the Krampus club Wallnerpass. Now of all times it is important to keep traditions alive. Due to this, the members of the Krampus club Wallnerpass make sure to only use authentic masks. Zombie or orc masks are an absolute no-go. The members try to keep their traditions as they were handed down through the years. However, there is one exception. Traditionally, the scary Krampuses are only allowed on the 5th and 6th of December. But they broke with this tradition due to the kids and to be a little more up to date. Especially for the younger ones, it is important to be part of a club and have their own maks and suits.

We are happy and proud to have as many clubs here in Saalfelden Leogang, which keep our traditions alive.

St. Nicholas vs. Lockdowns

Usually, you can see Krampuses over a period of nearly a month, between the 7th of December and the 5th of January. There are various shows, performances and the traditional and famous “Perchtenlauf”. However, due to Covid19 everything was different in 2020 and 2021. At least, St. Nicholas and three of his Krampuses were allowed to visit the children at home. St. Nicholas is a figure, who brings presents to nice children. For the naughty ones, three of the Krampuses accompany St. Nicholas. These visits at home needed a lot of organizational work, but one look into the bright eyes of the children, made all worth it.  

Time to solve the mystery of the scary Krampus

All the facts mentioned above do not sound very scary, but it only takes one ring of a bell of a horse-drawn sleigh, and I automatically start to look for the Krampus. The suits and masks the people wear to dress up as a Krampus, weigh about 30 kilograms. Older masks are heavier than new ones, because they were more solid. The masks from the Wallnerpass are all handmade and carved out of wood. The horns for the Krampus masks come from ibexes or rams. The fur of a Krampus suit comes from real sheep or goats. For someone like Alexander, who has his routine, it takes about five minutes to put the Krampus suit on. The most difficult part are the heavy bells. It's almost impossible to put them on on your own.

A few personal questions

I asked Alexander if he could see everything clearly under his heavy mask. "Not really”, he said. Under the mask, the visibility is very bad. They cannot see what’s left or right of them, let alone what’s above or beneath them. It’s extremely difficult for them to see small children in front of them, which is the reason why they usually stretch out their hands while walking, so that they are quicker to detect obstacles.

Finally, I wanted to know, what was the best part about being a Krampus. “The best part are of course the children. I love to see how their fear changes into curiosity, and they dare to come to the Krampus and finally give them their hands. That’s when my heart beats faster.” Ultimately, a Krampus is only a human being.

However, I'm sure I will still be a little bit afraid as soon as I hear bells ringing at the end of November until the middle of December.