The ancient Alpine traditions of pre-Christian era are followed in many parts of Slovenia, Bavaria, Austria, Switzerland, western Croatia and Italy. Since ancient times, the pre-Christian Alpine traditions of the pagan era have been incorporated in many of the Slavic, Raetian, Germanic and Gaulish cultures of eastern and central Alps regions of Europe. These traditions are still being practiced in remote regions in the form of rituals, arts, dances, processions and games. These ancient pagan traditions revolve around many mythological creatures such as Krampus, Perchten and Badalisc. According to the folklore, Krampus, a demonic figure, visits during Christmas time, along with St. Nicholas, to penalize bad children. Perchten is another mythical figure associated with pre-Christian Alpine traditions. Perchten masks used to be paraded during last week of December and beginning of January in many paganistic regions. In some region of Austria, Perchten processions are still carried out each winter season.
Ancient Pagan Traditions
Krampus is depicted as a beast or demonic figure in Germanic folklore. His physical appearance embodies a hairy look with horns, cloven hooves and a drooping tongue. He is said to be carrying chains with bells of different sizes. It is believed that during Christmas time, Krampus comes along with St. Nicholas to judge bad children and penalize them. In many Alpine regions, it has been a tradition for people to dress up as Krampus on December 5 to scare away children. In some Alpine regions, Krampus night is observed before the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6. There were attempts by early Catholic to discourage the celebration around this demonic figure. However, the tradition continued and, in 17th century, Krampus was made a part of Christian winter celebrations by pairing him up with St. Nicholas.
Perchten represents female masks of Goddess Frau Perchta. Perchten masks were paraded during last week of December and beginning of January, especially January 6, in paganistic regions. Perchten costume includes white or brown sheep's skin and brown wooden mask. The various other names of Perchten in different regions are 'Perhta-Baba', 'Bechtrababa', 'Pudelfrau', 'Zampermuatta Sampa', 'Stampa', 'Lutzl', 'Berchta', 'Pehta', 'Berigl', 'Zlobna Pehta', 'Rauweib Zamperin' and 'Berchtlmuada'. Perchten processions are carried out each winter season in some regions of Austria. In early periods, the Roman Catholic Church came down heavily on this rampant practice however, the Church absolved it in the 17th century and this practice continues to this day.
The Badalisc is another mythological figure in alpine tradition. This figure represents goodness and is believed to dwell in the woods of Andrista, Italy. People follow annual rituals involving Badalisc to tell tales about prevalent rumors and gossips and symbolically release the creature after the festival.
Despite discouragement from various governments, the ancient customs of practicing spirit-based mythological traditions still continues. While some figures have become an integral part of Christmas celebrations, others are well on their way to extinction.