So, have you all been good? Hopefully you have, because this evening at the 17th Ischgl Krampuslauf procession, the Krampus are out and about and up to mischief once more. But who is actually behind those masks and costumes which scare us so much? Christian Jäger, 25, ski instructor, for one.
Christian, should we be scared of you this evening if we haven’t been very well-behaved this past year?
Yes, you should. St Nicholas gives presents those who have been good, and the Krampus punishes the naughty ones – that’s the tradition. And yes, of course we teach the bad ones a lesson.
Speaking of tradition: how important is it that something like the Krampuslauf survives?
It’s really important for us in the club. Because the Krampus tradition is getting a bit simplified right now. So the Perchten (Austrian Alpine witches) are mixed up with the Krampus, and the other way round. We make sure that we really keep to what’s always made the Krampus special. And most of all, it’s about the children.
They say that the Krampus has been able to teach more than one badly-behaved child a lesson.
(laughs) The Krampus is in fact sometimes a bit like a disciplinary measure. It worked back then with me, and it still works today.
How, for example?
It’s harmless stuff: I have often heard that children who are still using a dummy, for example, give the dummy to St. Nicholas and the Krampus when they come into the house together, and then really do stop using it from that day onwards.
What about you? Were you yourself scared of the Krampus?
Of course, I think everyone’s a bit scared, without exception. But if you’ve often watched processions like these, you get a bit used to it. And perhaps you’ll become a Krampus yourself some time, like me. But yes, I was frightened when I was a kid, too, we do look really scary.
True, if you think about your mask, you’re going to have problems getting to sleep at night.
I think that the gruesomeness really lies in the details. The mask which I have here is hand-carved from Swiss pine and full of elaborate details. There’s almost no upper limit – in the details, or in the price, either. (Note: a mask like Christian’s costs upwards of 700 euros).
The Krampus is the baddie, St. Nicholas is the goody. Why would you really want to be a baddy?
Well, I’ve also been on a couple of house visits with St. Nicholas. But the Krampus is really the cooler role. You’re in a proper costume where no one can recognise you. You can take on a proper role then – and let yourself go a bit, too.
Finally: what have you got planned for this evening?
It starts for us like every year with the St Nicholas procession at the church, where the children are given presents, then visits to the houses of families who’ve asked us to come by. And around 8pm we get ready at the old builder’s yard again – from there the procession then goes into the village up to the Silvrettaplatz, where the final show takes place. Krampus processions might be like riding a bicycle – you can never forget how to do it, and also never reinvent it – but we still try to think of something new every year. We’ve also come up with a a new little something for this evening. A little hint: it’s to do with a superstar. I can’t tell you more than that!
Christian Jäger, 25, has been an active member of the Krampus club for seven years. He’s a ski instructor in winter, and in the summer works in his parents’ business, the Hotel Jägerhof in Ischgl.
17th Ischgl Krampuslauf
When? Wednesday, 5 Dezember, from 9pm
Who? Some 50 scarily-dressed Krampus figures
Where? Right through the centre of Ischgl up to the Silvrettabahn car park