Destinations Magazine

Does St Nicholas Do It Differently In Austria?

By Linda
St Nicholas on horse

photo ; Dierken’s Flickr photostream

As the festive season of Advent approaches, children (and adults) throughout the Christian world look forward to the celebrations of the Christ child, Jesus. In Austria this is a most exciting period. St Nicholas comes to town, but there’s a chance that when he flies he doesn’t use his sleigh and reindeer!

St Nicholas plays

St Nicholas visits the children of Austria on the eve of December 6th. He appears wearing the glittering robes of a Bishop and is accompanied by angels, who have collected information about the children over the year. The angels tell St Nicholas who has been good and who hasn’t.

An incubus (demon) called Krampus – or Bartlel, as it’s known in Styria – accompanies St Nicholas. He wears a red wooden mask with horns and a black sheep skin outfit. Bartlel also carries a whip.

These characters, along with other demonic figures feature in the St Nicholas plays, which are common in the rural areas of the Austrian Alps. The stories are about good and bad – more aimed at adults than children!

Bad Mitterndorf and Ski Flying

In the Salzkammergut region of Styria, the St Nicholas plays at Bad Mitterndorf are particularly spectacular. Around 80 men and boys take part and during the course of the evening stage the play 5 times at stops along the route from the village of Krungl to Bad Mitterndorf. The procession covers around 5 kilometres from start to end and is led by demons wearing masks and horns that tower a meter high.

Bad Mitterndorf is an interesting venue for the St Nicholas plays. It’s the location of one of only 5 ski-flying hills in the world – Kulm. Ski flying is an extreme form of ski jumping, where the focus is on floating through the air for as far as possible (in excess of 200 metres) rather than the grace and elegance of the jump per se. It’s a predominantly European-based sport with it’s roots in Slovenia, but now enjoyed as far afield as America.

Thought to ponder

We’re all used to the idea that Father Christmas flies in from the North Pole on his sleigh pulled by reindeer. But what if he doesn’t – what if he ski flies instead!

Chalet Lowonahill is an all-season, rustic style holiday home in Styria. It’s the ideal place for you to discover the delights of the 9 provinces of Austria. For more information, simply click here.

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