If you are in Austria during December you may very well encounter the Krampus. These are half goat half demon creatures from Austrian folklore.
Legend has it that they accompanied St Nicholas on 6th December and, whereas St Nicholas rewarded the good children, the Krampus punished children who had misbehaved during the year. They would roam the streets with big bells around their waists and carry birch twigs to whip the naughty children. If a child had been really bad they would drag them down into the underworld, never to be seen again!
These days these creatures are ordinary people dressed in fantastic costumes with amazingly carved heads representing the demons. The main time to see them is the Krampuslauf (the Krampus Run) which is held in towns and villages around the 6th December. In the big cities there can be over a hundred Krampus on the run.
Accompanying the Krampus is St Nicholas and also people dressed as Perchten, angels and old women. So its not all bad!
Perchten are creatures from ancient Austrian folklore that drive out the demons and bad spirits of Winter. They usually appear around the Winter Solstice and early January must can make an appearance with the Krampus on their Krampuslauf.
by Nigel Ringrose