Naughty children (and grown-ups for that matter) beware! The Krampus are coming!
Around Christmastime, villages and towns across the Tirol are packed with terrifying devil-like creatures, complete with stinking goat skins and hideous masks – and if you happen to be in Cortina d’Ampezzo in the heart of the Italian Dolomites, you may just get greeted with a chainsaw or two as well!
The Krampus is an ancient tradition where the men of the town, usually the ski instructors, dress up as the devil and parade the town to beat the sin out of badly behaved boys and girls, with whips and bits of wood. As a behavioural tool it certainly works, as the amount of screaming children running from the Krampus will testify! As a local tradition it is a fabulous experience – the whole town turns out and you can expect to be surprised as Krampus leap out from dark corners to frighten and chase people, their ever-present cowbells clanging ominously as they beat passers-by to cleanse them so they are ready to receive gifts from St Nicolaus. The trick is not to run and to just take whatever ‘punishment’ you are given – the more you run the more you will be chased and the harder your beating will be!
Sounds terrifying? It is! But the atmosphere is fantastic and as we discovered over a cheeky glass of prossecco with some headless Krampus, it really is a well-loved event. Much as the children run screaming from the Krampus, when one errant group were made to take their masks off by the police on account of being too scary (possibly the chainsaw was a step too far!), far from being relieved, the children actually chanted ‘Diavolo! Diavolo!’ (Devil, Devil) in support of their anti heroes.
Several sore legs and bottoms later, Team Inghams have vowed to behave better next year!