interview with the krampus (part two)

earlier in the season we had part one of an interview with an actual krampus from austria.

that was chris steffler, from weinerwaldteufel. this time around, we hear from ronny, who has been with weinerwaldteufel since its inception in 2003. in a group where members range in age from ten to sixty, ronny is the group’s eldest member.

Whether in your Krampus group or others you know about… are all members generally from the same families? Do new people join? Do people have to live in the same village or area? In other words — if you are someone who is young and has never been in a Krampus group and has no family members who have done it, how would you know which one you could join or belong to?

It is different from group to group. In our group there are members from some families from the same area.

I am very curious about the preparation it takes to do a Krampuslauf event. How early in the year do you start planning? What do you have to do to plan?

The time for the preparation depends on the event. A visit to a family at home takes less time to prepare than our Krampuslauf at the Christmas market.

Do you have to have a new plan every year? Do you take the same routes or different ones? Do you try to plan something different each year or is it very traditional and similar each year?

It is very traditional and similar each year. We change the music . And look for new events at other Christmas markets or other locations.

How are the costumes cared for when they are stored? Are they all old costumes or are any of them new? Where do they come from?

The costumes have to be stored in a well-ventilated place. You can buy this costumes second hand from members of other groups or from special shops in Austria.

Your group seems to use other characters, not just Krampus. Other than St. Nicholas and the angel, what other characters do you have?

Witches, death, carrier of the basket, wood spirits.

For the actual event of the Krampuslauf, it is sometimes hard to tell just from videos online how it BEGINS and how it ENDS. Does it have a ceremonial moment at the start — and at the end — or does it just sort of happen?

First the witches and the wood spirits come, then the death follows, then the Krampusse come and try to catch the witches and the spirits, when St. Nikolaus and the angels come witches, spirits, death and Krampusse kneel down. Then St. Nikolaus distributes the gifts among the children. During this time the other characters move among the audience. At the end the whole group leaves the event together.

Other than the events in December, does your group stay in contact throughout the year? Do you attend social activities together or do charitable events?

During the year we meet each other 2 – 3 times at our meetings.

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i am grateful to ronny for these insights. as with all interesting subjects, this still leaves me wanting more! firstly, how do people “sign up” for housecalls from krampus? (it’s particularly interesting to me, because for the two days in december of 2012 i was convinced we would be rained out, my plan B involved dispatching mobile units to private homes on demand. dispatching krampusse, angels and saints — maybe sitting in the bowling alley in nolibs — maybe this isn’t so much a plan B for me as a dream.)

secondly, i had indeed noticed from their site that weinerwaldteufel had witches. i am wondering exactly what “wood spirits” look like. the fact that a death figure appears is not entirely surprising, now that i have seen and read a traditional krampus play; i also noted the death figure in this painting by evalds dajevskis:

Winter Solstice Celebration/Kekatas, by Evalds Dajevskis, 1984
Winter Solstice Celebration/Kekatas, by Evalds Dajevskis, 1984

evalds dajevskis’ granddaughter, daina, is a friend of the lauf and she says, (via facebook), “My little dream for next year’s krampuslauf was to encourage some Latvians from the Latvian Society (neighbors, after all) to come in their folk dress (because we have it, and wear it!), and add a proper ķekatas celebration, as seen in the painting, to the lauf.” her grandfather’s work is on exhibit at the latvian society from january 26 through february 2.
another austrian friend, photojournalist wolfgang böhm, has stared a facebook page called krampus live from austria and recently asked folks what their favorite “krampus-creature” was, citing his own as the Habergeiß. well! i didn’t KNOW that there were various types and taxonomies of krampusse, and i hope to be finding out more about that, too!

it’s remarkable to me that even as this folklore spreads out (more characters; more types of subcharacter than any of us could originally identify) it also closes in (more and more people find ways to relate it to their own experience and cultural heritage).

thanks to ronny and weinerwaldteufel! i can’t wait to see what 2013’s season is like for them… but even in finishing this blog post i realized (thanks to a hint from chris steffler) that i still didn’t really find out what role ronny PLAYS during the lauf… now i DO know and will try to get him to reveal it — and his interest in it — in an upcoming post!!