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Strip down to your underwear. Don’t worry about the cold. You will be plenty warm, and if not, you can always pee in your Krampus suit.
Deep in European Alps lies a legend. Lore that has lasted centuries, persisting through Europe’s ever changing dynasty rule, from pre-Christian Germanic origins to the Holy Roman Empire to modern day. It is a tradition that has been passed down and survives as a tale of warning for children, of what happens when you have been a bit more naughty than nice, a bit more guilty than innocent, and a bit more of a little shit than the angel your parents dreamt of you to be. Each year on December 5th, this terror comes down upon Alpine villages in Europe, punishing naughty children with sticks for their dastardly deeds. Behold – the equalizer of guilt, the deliverer of justice, the demonic perpetrator of punishment: The Krampus.
For seven consecutive days, gallant young Austrian men brave Father Winter, a pee soaked suit, an uncomfortably heavy demon mask which is near impossible to see out of, and put on a dazzling dancing performance in front of crowds, all the while under the daze of copious amounts of cigarettes and booze. This is a noble calling – a job that is both a privilege and a burden to uphold, to make sure kids stay on a path of righteousness and obedience for the year to come. And since I hate other people’s children and have a certain proclivity for the drink – it seemed like the perfect holiday employment opportunity.
My day began like any other: Racing through the Austrian Alps in a beefy 4 cylinder Euro eco-friendly car rushing to beat the oncoming blizzard approaching. With front wheel drive in full gear and an accelerating snowfall rate, it was a finger crossing moment to make it over the winding roads.
My arrival to the village outpost was met with confused stares and stale cigarette smoke lingering in the air in the Krampus Camper Van. I suppose it was an unusual sight. As to my knowledge, I am the first non-Alpine man in history to take up the role of the Krampus, but they needed a last minute stand in. Someone with both a willingness and rigor to beat unruly children with a stick and, one who with a penchant for merriment (see: intoxication) while performing said task.
So this will be your suit Ja? Give it a quick smell and feel, ja?
I don’t know what death smells like – but I imagine it smells something less pungent than a Krampus suit. The entire ensemble conveys a certain sense of horror – giant bells that clang with each step, twisted horns that veer every which way, fake blood dried down crooked teeth, a giant beastly web of fur that is reminiscent of the abominable snowman – all seem rather unnecessary to incite horror after taking one whiff of the Krampus suit. As I striped down to my underwear my arms were weighed down heavy from the massive fur. There is a reason that whenever you see movies with Vikings or men of the North, that they are always wearing fur but always seem rather content with never a complaint of the cold. I don’t think it is because they are more manly per say. It is just that being wrapped in a dead animal carcass is like a wearing a furnace in the blistering cold, and your pee is like adding gasoline to an open flame. The heat radiating from my new uniform could have kept a litter of kittens warm through the winter.
After several minutes of struggle putting on the suit, I was free to relax and wait with my fellow Krampus in arms in the CamperVan.
There is something to be said for men waiting with other men before going into battle. The jokes, the laughter, all encourage a brother-like camaraderie. I however, do not speak German, nor do I possess any outward appearance of rugged mountainmanness, so my fellowship and brotherly embrace solely was derived from puffing on cigarettes like a drivers ed. instructor and a vain attempt to pull down jagermeister like in my youth.
Ok. Now is the time, ja. So grab your whip, bells, and mask and we go to the tractor ja?
It was the perfect transportation method for the Krampus really. How else would you expect a platoon of mountain men to enter a Christmas market in Hellbruner Austria – than on a tractor with Krampus Wagon in tow. Batman has the Bat Mobile, the Krampus have the Krampus Wagon. It is hard to do justice to the scene with words. Being in a Krampus Wagon with 20 Austrian guys in Yeti outfits, their demonic Krampus mask hitched to a rod behind where they sat by the horns, all smoking while the make shift portable subwoofer machine buzzed off and on blaring some Germanic rock music as we zipped around the mountains, snowfall still blanketing the landscape.
You are ready, ja?
Yes. I think so.
The Krampus opposite me smiled, reached toward me under my seat, materializing two beers from under the bench packed atop with heavy furred men. He popped both bottle seamlessly while his grin momentarily disappeared.
Don’t pee in my suit, ja?
Apparently, I was using his suit while he used the Krampus suit of the guy I stood in for. Each guy owns his own suit. Their mask is unique, like a snowflake, from every others mask. Furry jumpsuit, bells, whip, mask – in all – 2,000 euros a piece. Expectations were high, but my bladder was full. As the tractor pulled into the Christmas market, Krampus jumped out the back like paratroopers, lunging toward the first open space to empty their tanks. Apparently, they only pee in the Krampus suit toward the end if need be. I reckon for longer performances when more beer is consumed. I tried frantically to get my suit off, as I did not want to anger my new Krampus buddy with a wet suit return, but getting off a Krampus suit is akin to trying to rip off a straight jacket. It takes knowledge of the inner workers or ropes and latches. However, my brothers came to my aid, and before I knew it they had latched my giant jiggle balls around my waist, and we were all in a side by side, two by two formation, in line preparing for our grand entrance.
This is Jacko. You stay with Jacko ja? Do what Jacko does. When Jacko dances – you dance, when Jacko hits – you hit. When Jacko kneels for the performance – you kneel, ja?
Ok. No problem.
I obviously hadn’t really considered if my response was actually accurate before the words left my mouth, because in fact it would be a problem. For one, Jacko was wearing a giant white Krampus suit. But everybody’s suit was either white or black. Second, once you put on the Krampus mask, you can’t see shit. You become Mr. Magoo after a bender. Your sightline goes from 208 degrees of peripheral vision down to about 30 degrees.
As we began our slow jog with an extra hop to make the bells clang more loudly, I felt the weight of the suit bearing down on me. We entered the Christmas market arena with the Krampus yelling and roaring, grunting at the oncoming fanfare. Children curled up behind their parents. Men pushed their wives and girlfriends into harms way for a photo with the men of the hour, but most notable was my inability to find the path, the people, or anything that had a pulse.
Looking for Jacko I found myself face to face with everything the Christmas market could throw at me. Christmas trees, food stalls, a box of extra ornanaments that I crushed as I trekked through the bush looking for children to torment with my rage. My search for Jacko was not going well. Finding Jacko was like trying to find Waldo (Wally), in the dark, without a light, without the book that Waldo is in. Anyone could have been Jacko. But whether it was Jacko or not, I posed. I grunted. I swatted children with my cow hid whip. I reigned terror down upon them like they had never seen.But because I couldn’t see perfectly, there is a possibility that some of the children may have been adults, or my Krampus brothers, or plants. The Krampus parade was meant to be in unison in the market square, but I made my very own parade across the Christmas market gardens.
Where are you going? The other Krampus are in the center preparing for the show. You are completely wrong way. Follow me, ja?
My Krampus attendant had become my Sacagawea. He guided me through crowds, through the quaint market ponds, through Christmas market stalls. Unfortunately, in a moment of inattentiveness, he did not guide me out of the way of an oncoming golf cart which I walked into. I had become the Don Quixote of the Krampus – charging my fury at golf carts instead of the little villains I was suppose to reign my terror upon. To my credit, however, I was able to recoup momentarily after my accident and was able to muster the rage (through pain) to harass all of the attractive women within sight. I have a sixth sense of finding women that want nothing to do with me.The night ended how any good night in the Alpines ends – by the fire, chowing down on bratwurst, beer, and recapping the nights triumphs with the mountain man fellowship. Needless to say, my list of distinguished accomplishments was as notable as my vision.
So in the end, do I have career future as a Krampus? Well, my experience as a man of the mountains, rugged, fearless, willing to brave the cold and deliver like a true Krampus, can be summed up with the words of the Bhagavad-Gita…
Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds
Well – I have become Death alright, but one that destroys Christmas Markets