By Sucheta Rawal
November 11, 2019

If you want to find out if you've been "naughty or nice" this year, some stomping devils may be able to tell you.

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The common Christmas expression is thought to be derived from a Western European folklore known as Krampus. The mythological figure — who is half goat, half demon — is the evil twin of Saint Nicholas and was supposedly invented in the middle ages to discipline kids according to National Geographic. While Santa brings presents to well-behaved kids, Krampus punishes those who have been naughty.

Every year, during the weeks leading up to Christmas, Krampus parades are held in the alpine villages of Austria. While the tradition is over 1,500 years old, it is still practiced with much of its original excitement through the Austrian region of Tyrol. For example, in the town of Igls, families gather to watch the Krampus parade where young men dressed up in fur suits, wooden masks, and cowbells ride fire-lit chariots to create a terrifying ambiance.

During the festivities, Krampus figures and perchten (Krampus’ army of elves) descend into the crowd, looking for innocent bystanders — usually older kids and adults — to whip with prickly brooms and birch branches. In full character and costume, the masked actors spare no force and often get rowdy, hounding their prey until they surrender. Many also rattle chains or flick their whips to instill fear in the spectators.

Most of the native Tyroleans find the tradition to be harmless. They’re often found sipping glühwein (mulled wine) and eating roasted chestnuts while taking part in the popular tradition with their friends and families.

The Krampus parade can be thrilling, but may be horrific if you’re an unprepared outsider. Stay away from the front row to avoid direct contact with the red-eyed monsters and their swirling whips. Though it seems like a family-friendly holiday event, there are no rules and you could get hurt.

Krampus parades will be held in the 40 towns and villages in the Innsbruck region from November 29 to December 7 this year.

During the pre-holiday season, most travelers stay in the picturesque town of Innsbruck to enjoy the festivities. And while the Krampus parades draw thrill seekers, the snow-covered Alps, lit-up wooden houses, bustling squares, and sparkling trees create Christmas magic. In addition, six Christmas markets in Innsbruck attract vendors from all over Europe who sell handmade ornaments, candles, wool scarves, woodwork, and candy, among other gifts.

Other attractions in the area include a garden, exhibit and museum with 80,000 hand mounted crystal clouds at SwarovskiKristallwelten; and Nordkette mountain with a funicular, Alpine Zoo and one of the steepest ski runs in Europe.

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