Biotop Christmas Calendar Day 5

#What can a scary furry devil figure like the Krampus have to do with romanticism?

Sometime between the 16th and 19th century, “Nikolo” and “Krampus” appeared as an unequal couple at treating rites on the eve of the feast of Saint Nicholas on 6th December. While one brings gifts the other one threatens the children with chain, rod and butte. In the Baroque period, Saint Nicholas games in the vicinity of monasteries developed into sacred plays that were performed in courtyards and inns. They included catechetical scenes between good and evil, often angels and devils fought over the soul of a dying man. From the 18th century onwards, such games were forbidden by both the church and secular authorities.They were considered outdated and called “pagan and unworthy of a true Christian”. However, exactly this “pagan” nature was of particular interest for romanticists a century later. They related the figures to germanic myths and wanted to find their ancient origins, overlooking the fact that the texts of the traditional St. Nicholas games, in which the devilish armies appear, had theological roots.

About the authors

Wolfgang Schütz, is an illustrator and game developer from Villach. His studies of multimedia art led him to Salzburg where he’s been living for the past ten years. He started to work as a freelancer under the synonym Stulowitz in 2018.

As an archaeologist Martin Fera has researched pharaonic graves in Sudan, bronze age saltmines in Hallstatt or viking burials in Norway. Currently, his research is focused on using data from landscape scans to better understand early iron age cultures in Europe.

Further Reading

  • Johannes Ebner, Tradition ohne Vergangenheit. Zur sozialen Neudefinition von alpinen Maskenbräuchen. In: Figurationen. Schriften zur Zivilisations- und Prozesstheorie. Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2018. DOI ISBN 978-3-658-19021-7
  • Roland Bäck, Nikolo und Krampus – ein ungleiches Gespann. Gedanken zum Wandel des regionalen Krampus- und Nikolausbrauchtums in Kärnten, in: Landesmuseum Kärnten (Hg.), Rudolfinum - Jahrbuch des Landesmuseums für Kärnten,2015, 479 - 485. ISBN: 978-3-900575-41-0 pdf
  • Jennifer Laing & Warwick Frost, Rituals and Traditional Events in the Modern World. Routledge Advances in Event Research Series. Routledge, London/New York 2014. ISBN 1134593139

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