Austrian authorities are trying, and apparently failing, to stay one step ahead of drunken demons bedeviling the local populace this time of year, The Guardian reports. Apparently, Christmastime is when men dress like the Christmas demon Krampus, get drunk, and go off-script, in a manner of speaking, tormenting and scaring passersby in a way that seemingly goes beyond good fun.
What's A Krampus?In the U.S., there's Santa Claus and his eight tiny reindeer, and that's it. However, in European Christian tradition, Santa — or Father Christmas — is often accompanied by his antithesis. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, where Santa -- the jolly elf based on a real Turkish Christian saint -- bestows gifts and treats to well-behaved children, his opposite, the goat-horned demon Krampus, lurks about to punish bad children. Depending on which legend you believe, Krampus will beat them, drown them, eat them, or drag them to hell.
These days, Krampus is considered by many to be a scary but fun symbol, much like those trotted out at Halloween. Many European cities see him as an excuse to hold Krampus parades, where revelers get drunk, dress as Krampus, and stroll through town, scaring naughty children and adults.
A National PrankIn Austria, it's not uncommon for Krampus to kind of lurk about on his own during the Christmas season. That is, absent a parade, a man may dress as Krampus and pop out from behind a hiding place to playfully scare kids or adults. Think of it as a national prank.
Going Off-ScriptHowever, throw in a few too many cold ones and Krampus scares go from being good Christmas fun to assault.
In Carinthia, for example, drunken men dressed as Krampus have assaulted people with birch branches -- according to The Guardian report -- including at least one incident that left an 11-year-old child with a bloody cut on their thigh. In Sterzing, a Krampus parade went awry and ended with revelers fleeing in terror as drunken Krampuses mercilessly beat a man on the ground. In Klagenfurt, two firefighters were bedeviled by a group of drunken Krampuses who beat them with sticks.
Peter Wiesflecker, a historian of Austrian culture and customs, says that the situation is testing the patience of police.
"If large group of young men in masks roamed the streets on any other night of the year, the police would be called out in an instant," he said, per the aforementioned report.
Aleksander Andonov, who heads the Anif Krampus Association, has instituted rules for the Krampuses who work for him. Alcohol isn't allowed; they're only allowed to lightly brush their "victims" with cows' tails or birch branches; parades in which his association participates must set up Krampus-free zones so scared children can have a safe space.
"The aim of the Krampus is not to hurt people. On the contrary: we want to take away their fear. In the end, good always wins over evil," he said.