>The Cowbells Ring Earlier Every Year

>Late this afternoon a horde of hairy, rude devils appeared on the square across from my apartment; the Krampus, a monster with giant cowbells on his back and a whip in his hand, is supposed to show up on December 5th to chase out the winter spirits and make room for the arrival of St. Nikolaus (whose day is December 6.) If you’ve been a naughty child, you don’t get a lump of coal, you get a switching (read: empty threat.) The guys that showed up in costume this year were pretty well-behaved, and there by invitation, which is why they came 5 days early.
By the middle of next week, I won’t be able to walk home late in the evening without hearing those cowbells, usually heralding some teenager out to scare little kids and impress the girls. I only got switched once, and that was when I was a young, pretty thing (it still pissed me off!) Mostly the younger kids try to get a rise out of the Krampus and get away without getting whipped.
On the night of the 5th, children are instructed to leave their boots out, much as American children hang up their stockings on Christmas Eve, so that St. Nikolaus will fill them with chocolates, nuts, oranges and gingerbread. I like this tradition, as it takes some of the edge off of Christmas and gives the kids motivation to behave well.
Tirol (as well as the rest of Austria) is fighting to keep its old traditions alive; films, songs and the tv introduce children to Santa Claus, with his eight reindeer plus Rudolph, and the Big Day (December 25th.) In Austria one lights the candles on the tree on the evening of the 24th, and the Christkind brings the presents. But the shops now all carry Santa hats, and play popular American Christmas songs, and Tiroleans feel their heritage is being threatened. You can see globalization at work right here in the Altstadt.

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2 Responses to >The Cowbells Ring Earlier Every Year

  1. Gromit says:

    >Re globalization, is Austria experiencing the political/ethnic problems to the same extent as Switzerland? (I was going to say something off-color about Krampus, but you probably want this blog clean enough for your mother to read).

  2. Marcellina says:

    >Gromit, this was recently in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (via Courrier International, who I presume did the translating):Austria is slowly getting used to the idea that it’s now a country of immigration and has started a debate about Islam, Paul Jandl reports: “Whereas in 2001 around 14 percent of the population had an immigrant background, now it’s over 16 percent. Most immigrants live in Vienna, where a third of the current residents were not born in Austria. However those who fear the Balkanisation of the country can rest assured: the majority of the newcomers don’t come from the classic guest worker countries but from the EU. Germans still constitute the largest group. Could it be that the clash of the cultures has been less intense in Austria than elsewhere? There hasn’t even been a discussion about the headscarf so far. On the contrary, when the city of Vienna recently presented the new official uniform for its cleaning staff, a headscarf to be worn by Muslim women was also included in the ensemble.”I don’t know the whole answer, as of course there is racism and the rest, here as everywhere. But seems to be less of it.

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