Over the years, we have collected numerous questions about Krampus and our organization. Here is a small selection of our favorites:
- What is Minnesota Krampus?
Minnesota Krampus is a non-political, 501c3 non-profit, educational organization with the mission to preserve and promote the culture and customs of the winter holiday season from the area around the city-state of Salzburg, Austria. We want others to see and understand the history and beauty of this alpine tradition, and we do this by providing literature, participating in ethnic festivals, and funding an annual college scholarship.
- What is/are Krampus?
Disclaimer: Folk customs have never been static. The growth and evolution of folk customs create many conflicting opinions regarding the true origin and correct celebration of folk traditions between the practitioners (those focusing on the oral tradition of the last three generations) and academics (those focusing on documented references). With that said, this answer comes from the Salzburg tradition:
Krampus is a creature, larger than a man, covered in fur, has large exotic horns (sometimes as many as four or six), and hunts the mountain passes in the eastern alpine realm (in modern-day Austria). In the Salzburger history, Krampus was part of pre-Christian traditions that represented the harshness and wilderness of winter. It is believed that during the Christianization period of the area, the popularity of this pre-Christian traditions was so strong that the Catholic church allowed continued celebration of Krampus, but only if the people would convert to Christianity and if the creature be paired with Sankt Nikolaus. The tradition is believed to have been commonly celebrated all over Austria until the middle 17th Century, during the Reformation period under Salzburg Archbishop Colloredo, which outlawed any assumed celebration of the devil. The tradition saw a muted revival (celebrated in secret) during the industrialization period (as people moved from the countryside into the cities), but was again outlawed in the 20th century by the Nazis. In the 1960s, Krampus came back into popular culture and was again renewed in the 1990s through today.
- Who is Sankt Nikolaus or Saint Nicholas?
Disclaimer: Minnesota Krampus aknowledges that the St Nicholas Center does not support, in any way, the existance or celebration of any Saint Nicholas "helper" that could diminish the purity and overall good of the saint. We support the stance that the holy Saint is the center of our holiday tradition and also recognize the importance of perserving our cultural traditions.
- Is Krampus only an Austrian or German being?
No, there are many cultures that have krampus-like beings in their tradition (including Greeks and Romans). Folk cultures referencing “Krampus” include alpine Italians, Slovenians, alpine Croatians, Hungarians, Slovakians, and Czechs.
- Why is Krampus paired with St Nikolaus? Why do Krampus wear bells/chains?
In the Salzburger tradition, it is believed that St Nikolaus is paired with Krampus as a compromise to the native population to convert them to Christianity and to bring balance to the celebration. In some explanations, it is believed that Krampus' is chained in servitude to the Saint (with Krampus appearing with shackles and chains) while others believe Krampus has a willing partnership with the Saint.
- Why do you celebrate something so dark?
We think: why not? The main pillars of Germanic folklore (think Grimm's fairy tales) are graphic tales depicting 'right' verses 'wrong', and often used to frighten young ones into not making the same mistakes. Just as these folk tales teach young people valuable lessons about life, St Nikolaus and Krampus personify these lessons with positive and negative reinforcements.
- What is the costume that Krampus wears?
Generally, we acquired all of our costume elements from craftsmen in Austria. Our masks are carved from wood, by hand, by a master woodcarver. The masks are completed by adding detailing paint, real animal horns, long hair, and glass eyes. Our suits, in German "das Fell" meaning pelt, come from a long haired alpine goat and are presented in their natural colors (reds, grays, speckled whites, and dark browns). To complete the look and sound, we also import our bells.
- Why does Minnesota Krampus also go by the name, Pig's Eye Pass?
All of the Krampus organizations in Austria refer to themselves by the fictitious and scary mountain passes they come from. In the spirit of this tradition, Minnesota Krampus chose to co-brand itself as Pig's Eye Pass.
Pig's Eye Landing played an important role in Minnesota history and the location later became known as the Saintly City and Capital of Minnesota, Saint Paul. In honor of our city's humble beginnings (with squatters and bootleg whiskey), our Pig's Eye Pass comes from the imaginary mountains of Minnesota around Pig's Eye Landing. Our uniquely Minnesotan history now has a uniquely Minnesotan Krampus organization.