The darkest, coldest, scariest day of the year in the Alps region is December 6. That's when Saint Nikolaus (Santa, for you guys) visits us, bringing with him nuts, oranges, apples, sweets, and an army of terrifying, child-stealing demons called the Krampus. The Krampus break into people's homes to wreak havoc or run around the streets swinging their cow tails and rods. The locals are all pretty scared of them.
We've long been conditioned to jump at the sound of their bells ringing around some dark corner. Of course we know it's just plain old humans under the masks, but most of them are drunk and as children we were told stories about the barbwire and sharp razor blades hanging from their tails.
Last year, I followed a group of really nice Krampus guys around, which helped me to get over my fear. But the bruises from their rods still hurt.
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