On the Tracks of the Krampus
“Like trying to hear snowflakes
No one can hear my call
Consuming all the voices
Dampened by the snow
You’d better not cheat and you’d better not cry
And you’d better not lie, I’m telling you why
Santa ain’t coming this year
Santa ain’t coming this year”
If Santa Claus is a universal figure, in some alpine areas of German culture, such as Alto Adige, Austria, Bavaria and also in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, in addition to the character of Nikolaus (St. Nicholas, from which Santa Claus originated) another bizarre subject peeps out: the Krampus.
The legend tells during times of famine, in the mountain villages, groups of young people disguised themselves as monsters with furs and horns of dead animals. They went to villages terrorizing people and plundering their possessions.
It was not long, however, that the devil himself began to blend in between them, the only recognizable detail were legs with goat hooves; the men immediately invoked the help of Bishop Nicholas, who made an exorcism and drove out the beast, making his own servant.
From the XIX century, there are reports of parades dedicated to the Krampus and organized by young men: for the occasion, all the participants used to dress up as demons and parade along the streets of the villages, bringing gifts to good children and beating who they had misbehaved.
The parade is deliberately noisy: the demons terrify the audience with frightening screams and the din of chains, cowbells and sticks; they wander in search of adults and children to punish, while the comforting figure of Saint Nicholas instills joy in the little ones by distributing treats.
Each event is different depending on the area in which it is organized, but all are a source of great attraction for the show they bring to life and for the traditional value they evoke. Of course, one thing is certain: wherever you are, removing the mask of a Krampus is a huge taboo. Never try to find out who is behind the monstrous goat costumes. It could be the devil himself!
The clothes and masks pass from generation to generation, and they are of emotional value and expensive. It takes at least nine goat furs, some ponytails, yak, fox or badger to make a single dress; the horns are strictly real, and the monstrous masks are carved in wood: this tradition is an art that must be handed down.
Taken from my Notes: “Rammstein’s metal music is booming in my ears, and my hands are freezing. I put my camera away and enjoy the show, I think, but I can do it for just one second, too many things to capture, I am thrilled and await a new group of Krampus with adrenaline and fearless. I have an official harness that allows me to be right in the middle of them; I have fallen several times due to their thrusts, they have no mercy and the iron barriers are made fly with force, so it is better not to lean on them for stability, or you risk ending up under their hairy feet. At the end of the evening, my socks are soaked cause the snow got into my boots, the frozen bones and the red eyes, but next year I’ll be back again to find the devil among them”.
“My name’s Elvio Maccheroni, and I live in a lodge inside the Natural Park of Mount Subasio in central Italy. Photography has always been my passion, and now it has become a job; including National Geographic among my collaborations. My photographic style prefers reportage, and for this reason, I love to travel and always look for new situations in which to infiltrate. My Fuji kit allows me to go unnoticed and thus maintain the naturalness of the moment.”