Krampus is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Christmas season who had misbehaved.
I’ve spent a number of Christmases abroad within my decade of travel. In 2003 during my first trip abroad I was with my family in Santiago, Chile. It was my first Christmas away from my immediate family and I found it a bit difficult. I think what made it harder was that on Christmas Eve I was with my godmother and cousins and their family, so even though I was technically with family, the fact that two family units were there intact made me miss mine.
On Christmas Day of 2007 Bob and I left Australia en route to Shanghai. The flight there via Seoul was one of my crazier experiences in the air, but it marked the start to a fascinating ten-day tour in which we were able to enjoy the tail end of the Christmas season from Shanghai through to our final stop in Beijing. In 2013 our Japan trip fell in mid-November but Japan was already in Christmas mode, to a degree that completely surprised me. There were European-inspired Christmas markets in Osaka, a Colonel dressed up as Santa at the Hiroshima KFC and countless Christmas decorations adorning most cities we visited.
We spent the Christmas of 2008 in Piura, Peru and enjoyed some time observing different customs with new friends. Then in 2010 we celebrated both Christmas Eve and Day with delicious food and drinks in Barcelona, Spain and then on January 6 were greeted with a Roscon and gifts as part of Los Reyes celebrations which, up until then I knew absolutely nothing about. Christmas in Barcelona marked the end of our 6 weeks in Europe which were filled with Christmas Markets and festivities.
The impromptu Paris leg of our Europe trip a few weeks earlier had provided me with a very memorable experience where, after visiting the Eiffel Tower we made our way to a Christmas market nearby. The snow fell lightly and the Eiffel Tower added to a gorgeous background as people shopped, eating roasted chestnuts; Christmas music and the sound of children playing filling the air.
The biggest Christmas surprise on this trip, however, occurred towards the start of our Europe adventure in Salzburg, Austria. During the day we’d enjoyed a Sound of Music bus tour (the ONLY way to see Salzburg!) with a knowledgeable but a-little-bit-mean American tour guide. After a quick visit to the Mozart museum and dinner we returned to the Christmas Markets in Residentsplatz, which we had begun to navigate through the previous night.
I was enjoying something I’d discovered the night before — hot chocolate with Baileys — as I admired the stalls when all of a sudden we heard a commotion in the distance.
A friend had explained Krampus to us a few days earlier in Vienna, so we had a basic idea of what was going on as soon as we saw the beastly costumed figures holding sticks. Krampus was upon us.
Even though I knew the beasts were harmless I admit I shivered when one of them brushed their sticks against my leg as I filmed the above video. I pretended I hadn’t noticed so that he would go away.
I feel privileged to have been able to experience a wintry Christmas at least once. Growing up with films depicting the ‘traditional’ White Christmas, then spending most of mine fanning myself in 30˚C+ heat whilst wearing a pair of shorts and thongs, it was nice to see how the other half live. I hope to spend my next wintry Christmas in the US but I think another warm one in South America is on the cards before that.