15:30 GMT +321 January 2020
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    Every 5 December, the streets in Austrian towns are flooded with people in terrifying masks with giant horns as the country celebrates the so-called Krampus day. Traditionally, this demon-like creature accompanied Sankt Nikolaus (Austria’s Father Christmas) to scare badly behaved children. However, it is the modern Krampuses who cause concern now.

    The number of complaints about drunken and disorderly Krampuses during traditional local festivities has risen in Austria over the past years, The Guardian reports, as a shocking video from the neighbouring German-speaking region of South Tyrol in Italy circulates online.

    The celebrations, cherishing a longstanding tradition of extravagant runs, attract more and more people who put on horned masks, furry costumes – and sometimes chase spectators – each year. One such event in Sterzing (also called Vipiteno), when spectators are supposed to tease the “devils” and try to run away, prompted backlash online after a video of horned participants punching and kicking a person on the ground and brutally chasing others emerged.

    The group organising the event, called "Tuifl Sterzing", has lambasted what it described as false reports circulating on Facebook. Although it confirmed the authenticity of the video, it rejected allegations of racism that emerged online, insisting that "they absolutely do not correspond with the truth!" The so-called "Tratzer", who run away but are meant to take a beating, are said to be friends and acquaintances of the "Tuifl Sterzing".

    As The Guardian points out, such runs and themed events have turned more violent and even caused injuries and damages in Austria, as well.

    In one of the country’s regions, Carinthia, several incidents were recorded by the police even in the run-up to the official “Krampus day”. One was reportedly hit in the face with Krampus’ traditional accessory, a birch, while an 11-year-old child was cut on the thigh. In one local town, Klagenfurt, two firefighters were set upon and beaten by masked demons.

    ​Salzburg also witnessed unrest in the run-up to the festivities as police were called to tackle several drunken demons. Tempers flared in Tyrol as well as three of these devils accidentally set off fireworks, suffering burns. Meanwhile, in Lower Austria, another legendary character, the Alpine pagan goddess Percht, was severely injured after a spectator yanked its mask.

    As historians explain, the demon-like Krampus was initially depicted as the sidekick of Sankt Nikolaus, who accompanied this Austrian Father Christmas to scare naughty children. However, it evolved into an independent folklore cult in the 20th century with so-called Krampus runs gaining popularity and is used as a legitimate excuse to rampage through towns, terrifying people all around.

    Related:

    Hardcore Folklore: Odd Christmas Traditions From Around the World
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    offence, tradition, Christmas, Devil, Italy, Austria
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