Hello and welcome to the first installment of this year’s Yuletide posts! In the following weeks, I will be participating in both the Yuletide Blog Festival of Emily over at wyrdanglosaxonpriestess.wordpress.com as well as in the 21 Days of Yule by The Domestic Witch. Due to my work on my PhD and an urgent assignment of the publishing house I’m working for, I won’t be blogging every day, but you can still expect a few posts each week. My main focus will be on German Christmas and Yule traditions, as well as my family traditions.
Tonight, in many parts of Bavaria (Germany), as well as in parts of Austria, Krampusnacht is celebrated. This custom, which goes back some hundred years, has weird creatures by the name of “Krampus” proceed through the villages at night.
A traditional Krampus mask.
These creatures, whose name means “claw” in English, are clad in black or brown fur coats with cloven hoofs (thus we could assume that they were meant to resemble the Devil). The fact that they wear wooden masks adorned with horns also points to this interpretation. Krampusse also carry bells or chains to rattle, as well as ruten – these are bundles of branches that nasty children are swatted with. Sometimes, a Krampus can be seen carrying a sack or some similar container on his back to carry away evil children, either to devour them or to bring them to Hell. The Krampus is thus a companion to St. Nicolas, who brings presents to good children on December 6th.
In my hometown, which is situated in the Harz mountains in Lower Saxony, we do not know the Krampus at all. However, my great-grandma, who was born in Andernach in Rhineland-Palatinate, used to tell me of quite a similar creature. She used to tell me of the “Muffi”, a furry, evil, chain-rattling creature that accompanies St. Nicolas that would catch and take away children who’d behaved badly. In contrast to the Krampusse, though, the Muffi could show up throughout Christmas time.
2 Krampusse together with the Saint.
My great-grandma would also occasionally impersonate the Muffi – she’d stomp through the hall towards the living-room where I’d be playing and, wearing a furry glove, she’d throw some sweets into the room. Needless to say, she used to scare me a lot with it, and I did believe in the Muffi and St. Nicolas for a very long time.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find out whether there was another, older custom of the Muffi pre-dating the one I experienced. Likewise, I’m not sure which functions the Krampusse originally fulfilled.
However, I’ve experienced a lot of the customs revolving around St. Nicolas, whose day we’re celebrating tomorrow. So tune in again tomorrow for a post on my family’s customs and some German poetry!