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Almost Forgotten Bavarian Winter Ritual Experiences a Revival

- The “Sparifankerl-Pass” successfully resurrects an Alpine tradition
- First Krampus group in Munich pleased with keen spectator interest
- Many events every year in Germany, Austria and Italy

The historic Alpine tradition of the Krampus Run has found a revival in Germany. Since 2001, the unique „Sparifankerl-Pass“ (local dialect meaning „Devil’s Group“) has been dedicated to the preservation of this winter tradition. It all revolves around Krampus, a companion to the good Bishop Nicholas and an emissary of evil, who puts fear into wicked people and unruly children (==> see separate press release). From the end of November until the end of December 12 members – both young and young-at-heart – give about 15 appearances and performances in Bavaria, Austria and Northern Italy.

“Spectator interest in the Krampus Runs have increased enormously,” reported Tom Bierbaumer, who together with Gordon Wüst initiated the first Krampus group in the Munich area. “But we’re still on a mission to once again establish this fascinating tradition into the public’s awareness.” The chances are good, because thanks to the impressive performances by the Bavarian “Kramperln”, audiences long remember this traditional ritual that served to expel and defend against demons and other evil spirits starting over 500 years ago. Particularly in Austria up to 60 groups can be found at the annual Krampus Runs, which progress sequentially over a specific route through the city. Participants wear scary-looking, complex and artistic masks (called “larvae”) made from linden, stone pine or alder wood. Added features include shaggy fur, gloves with claws, a tail and numerous bells that create a huge racket.

It’s part of the tradition that things sometimes get a bit rough – although today’s Krampus are considerably more cautious than their rowdy historical predecessors. Inattentive pedestrians who can’t or don’t want to make it to safety in time become part of the action and are shaken up or sometimes end on the seat of their pants. Especially popular is the tradition of the so-called “stampers”. The Krampus target young women, in order to affectionately stroke them with their birch rods – a throwback to the erotic component that differentiates the Krampus from their comparatively colorless north and central German counterpart Knecht Ruprecht. Birch buds, which can already be seen in the winter months, are a fertility symbol evoking re-emerging life. “Most young women and other spectators know what’s coming and ask to be challenged,” says Tom Bierbaumer. “However, the safety of all participants always is our first priority – we’re especially careful with children.”

Since the Munich group has no commercial intentions, members make time as well as financial sacrifices: Typical costumes cost between 2,000 and 2,500 Euros, which Bierbaumer orders at the beginning of the year from specialized mask carvers and fur tailors (==> see separate press release). “We do this for the pure fun of it,” emphasized Bierbaumer, who makes his living in normal life as a freelance cameraman. “As a child in Kempten, I ran as a little Krampus, before the custom almost completely disappeared. In 2001 Gordon Wüst, Christoph Klemm and I came up with the idea to revive this tradition. Since then interest has increased steadily.”

As the first Krampus group in Munich, the Sparifankerl-Pass is still considered an anomaly in the Bavarian capital. In the Alpine region, however, there are hundreds of similar groups. One of the most important platforms for these guardians of tradition is Internet, where the Bavarians have a Facebook site and a sophisticated web presence at

Who is a member of the Sparifankerl Pass, the first Krampus and Perchten group from Munich? Click here for the current list of members of Krampus and Perchten from Munich ...

Where can you see the Krampus and Perchten called the Sparifankerl Pass? Click more for the current list of events and performances at home and abroad ...