Perchtenlauf or the demons are coming

Salzburg Travel Blog

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Okay, a little pre-story, since this is a public blog and I can't assume that everybody knows Perchten. Perchtenlauf or Krampusslauf is an austrian tradition, that dates back to pre-christian times, when the celts and pagan religions were still in place. It usually happens in the beginning of December. The ugly Perchten (well, its just young men in masks, but they seem like real animals in their role) come, accompanied by the Nikolaus (who looks a lot like the Coca Cola Santa) and sometimes an angel. There are a lot of Perchten usually, they are big, they stink like cows, because of the real fur and mostly they are huge, with horns and whips or brooms. If you were bad this year, they come and hit you. Actually they come and hit you anyhow, especially if you are between 10 and 25 and male.
They assume that guys in that age group are bad anyhow. Well, they are scary as hell and come with bells and fire- and sound effects. They are also meant to get rid of the demons that accumulate during the year before the quiet of winter.
If you have been good though, you get a gift of nuts, oranges and sweets by the Nikolaus and the angel. In traditional households with kids, the nikolaus and the krampus come to kids homes as well. (Well, its usually the father or a family friend... sweet childhood memories.) The Nikolaus comes on the sixth, which is also the end of the public perchtenlaufs.
I visited this Perchtenlauf with a uni-colleague who is from Germany and didn't know how scary it is... lol, she still shrieked when we were hugged by a percht. Yes, I was good this year, since I only got a cow-stinking hug.  They also did the Perchtendance around the fire and the Hellbrunner SchloƟ-owners (where we saw this spectacle) did not shy away from using lots of red signal fire and the carmina burana. It was really spooky.
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