Krampuses ring in the Advent | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Dominik Berchtold

07 Dec. 2015 · Culture
Carolin Schratt

Bene and D’Bommera

Bene is actually an aspiring architect. However, during the time leading up to Christmas he swaps his drawing pencil and hard hat for a traditional alpine uniform. 

If Bene had to build the Krampusse a new house, he would know exactly how it should look: it would have to be a house made from earth located in a solitary part of the forest. It would have to have a tall entrance so that they could enter with their huge deer antlers. Everything also has to be round. There should be no corners and no edges that may cause them to hurt themselves. This is because a Krampus can’t see very well through its mask made out of fur.

‘Children don’t need to be frightened of me.’

 Krampuses ring in the Advent | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Dominik Berchtold

On the 4th December, Bene has just left the kindergarten. The Oberkrampus (chief Krampus) of the d’Bommera group has a full schedule during this busy period. There are a few beads of sweat in his red beard as he puts down his huge costume with its deer antlers, Krampus bell and rod and then puts on a blue hoodie. Unlike the other masks, his head also has a face. It is important to him that the Krampusse do not look too devil-like. He prefers a marmot, fox or other creature instead of a faceless fur cloak.

However, the Krampus’s main acts do not take place at the kindergarten but in front of the wintry backdrop of the villages in the valley. Several dozen of them assemble during the first weekends of December and ring in the advent period surrounded by bonfires. The thinking behind what is known as the Advent E’Lüüta primarily focuses on the social aspect. It is meant to present an opportunity for local people to relax and meet for a chat at what is known locally as a Hängert (hang-out) with their acquaintances before the stress of the upcoming winter season descends. Any funds that are raised during these events are donated to the local kindergartens.

‘I also used to be a cheeky little monster’

Advent E'Lüüta | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Dominik Berchtold

The Krampus Driving event on the 6th December tends to be a wild and spectacular affair. Bene has vivid memories of the times he used to enjoy teasing the Krampusse when he was a child. The hunt begins when the first snowballs are thrown at the Krampusse when they first arrive. The Krampus ring their deafening 10 to 15 kilogram cow bells (known as  Bommera in the Walser dialect) as they chase after the cheeky children. Compared with former times, the punishments are much milder; the children are usually absolved from their misdemeanours if they do a few press-ups or squats.

Jumping and Chasing

The original purpose of Krampus Driving was to ward away evil spirits during the hours of darkness. It is difficult to believe that this custom was only started in Kleinwalsertal 60 to 80 years ago when it migrated over from the Allgäu region. The Walser Krampusse have since then developed their own traditions and style of clothing. This is a tradition which Bene and d’Bommera want to keep alive into the future. It involves travelling from house to house to visit children and old people which is an activity that unites the local people. Bene is not a big fan of the chasing part of the proceedings. There is something else that is more important to him. ‘When a small child places his dummy in my hand, it doesn’t matter how much this time of the year is draining away my energy. This makes up for all the stress!’

Max Hütte  | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Hans Wiesenhofer

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