Our Südtirol Privat blogger Sabine met with Markus Ebner, President of the Aldein Krampuses, for an evening interview – and asked what it is like, being Krampus, with the masks and this very special tradition.
The two impressive wooden grimaces laid out on the table in front of me, with their imposing horns and dark real hair, stare at me frighteningly with their eyes gleaming threateningly. They are the Krampus masks of Markus Ebner. He is President of the Aldein Krampuses: the Gourzn – as they call themselves – are one of the now numerous Krampus societies in South Tyrol, which bring this ancient tradition to life year after year.
I met the 31-year-old for an evening “after-work drink” at the roofing company where he works – when he is not being Krampus.
Markus, what can you tell me about the Aldein Krampuses?
“Our Krampus society was founded in 2009. Back then it was the idea of a few young people from Aldein, but by now, the Aldein Krampus Society has a whole 23 members, some of which have been there from the beginning. Anyone can join us, as long as they are 18 or above, but the committee decides who is accepted into the society and who isn’t. It’s important that we all get on well with each other and that we are all on the same page – although we are actually very different people.” (grins)
How did you come up with your name?
“The Gourz is a part of the Blätterbach Gorge. There used to be a mine and some tunnels. Our society – the logo for example and our show truck – revolves around this theme.”
How active is your society?
“Well, we’re out and about a lot from the end of November; the time before Christmas is always very intense for us. This year, for example, we will be taking part in four different processions: things kick off for us on 23rd November in the Ziller Valley, then continue on the 30th in Pozza di Fassa, while our traditional run in Aldein – our annual highlight, of course – takes place on 5th December, and on 14th December we are travelling to Sexten. The rest of the year is obviously much quieter for the Krampuses. Our activities are limited to general meetings and smaller excursions together. This year we went go-carting, for example. Once a year, we organise a family barbecue and then there is our annual party – these activities, and a small membership fee, help us to finance our society work.”
How long have you already been president and what tasks do you have?
“I’ve been in the society from the beginning, for 10 years now, and was elected president in 2017. I see to all the bureaucracy, make all the enquiries for the Krampus runs, and organise everything that needs organising. For example, I produce the lists of participants, and take care of all the insurance matters. This work often starts as early as in May or even earlier. Then, of course, I try to come up with something new for the show programme – it’s nice when there is something different every year.”
The tradition of the Krampuses is especially common in the Alpine region. Despite that, I can only remember Santa Claus processions from my own childhood, not Krampus runs. In your opinion, why are there now so many Krampus runs in South Tyrol?
“I think that it’s become a bit of a fashion. Despite that, it’s nice to see people being so enthusiastic about this custom – even if some of them presumably no longer know the original idea behind it: that the Krampuses went through the village the day before Saint Nicholas Day to drive out all the evil.
Unlike in Austria, there used to be only single Krampuses here in South Tyrol, and they did not have costumes like the ones we wear today. Most of them just wore a fabric mask or painted their face black.”
Your outfits and masks are very scary and detailed. Where did you have them made and what is it like to wear something like that?
“That actually varies a lot… each mask is different. Some of our masks are produced by a mask maker in Salurn, some in Austria, and we now also have two young men in our club who have discovered a passion for carving and are also very skilled at it. The skins are produced by a tannery in our village. Often, you make some things yourself.
And as to how it feels... well, the costume does weigh a few kilos, and the mask is very heavy. Your sight is somewhat limited, of course, which is why there are often unplanned collisions between Krampuses during the pageant (laughs). And we’re definitely never cold!”
In all these years is there a run that particularly stands out in your memory?
“Each run is different, but one or two of them in Austria were exceptionally fun. And I especially remember two processions, one of them in Sand in Taufers, the other one in our village, because it snowed and the atmosphere was so perfect. That was a really beautiful feeling! Or when the spectators really join in with the show, like last year in Natz, that’s great!”
And what fascinates you so much about being Krampus?
(laughs) “That is a good question – and to be honest, it is not an easy one to answer… I’ve just always been fascinated by the subject of “Krampus”, even when I was really small. Apart from that, I love life with the society. It is also very interesting to keep coming into contact with new societies. And… well, when you put something like that on, you are no longer yourself, you take on a role – and that is really cool.”
What distinguishes the Aldein Gourzn from the other Krampus societies?
“Well, definitely our very special show trucks. The effects with fire and pyrotechnics and the show that we offer to the spectators. Our “Fellmadlen” (fur girls) always lead the procession from right out in front and a few child-Krampuses also run with us. Apart from that, Santa Claus and the giving of Christmas bags are a firmly established part… But the best way for you to find out is to just come and take a look at our run!”
I will definitely do that. After all, a Krampus run is always something very special every year… and somehow I like this feeling between fear and fascination! :-) What about you? Have you already been to one of the traditional South Tyrolean Krampus runs?
Have a lot of fun at this unique experience!