Christmas atmosphere in Italy, local markets and Krampus show
The most magical time of the year is coming, it’s Christmas time!
During the Christmas period, there is a whole different atmosphere full of traditions, lights, smells and tastes.
As time goes by, Christmas has lost its original meaning. Today, more than a religious celebration, it is just a period for exchanging presents. However, there are some areas in Italy where the true religious meaning of Christmas is still felt among the population. It could not be otherwise in Rome, where a spectacular Nativity scene will decorate Saint Peter’s Square from December to January.
In Italy, in particular in the north of the country, the tradition of Christmas markets is more alive than ever. Walking throughout the local markets it is possible to find typical products of the region prepared especially for the occasion and for the Christmas period. In addition, you can find also some markets that sell Christmas’ items like tree balls, statues for the nativity scene, lights and decorations. Everything contributes the magic and typical Christmas atmosphere! From the end of November to the epiphany the historical squares of Bolzano, Merano, Bressanone, Vipiteno and Brunico, in Trentino Alto Adige Area, are illuminated to host the most famous Christmas markets of Italy where the markets will be full of local products and valuable craftsmanship. They are renamed “five star route” that allows you to visit similar markets and their long history. Indeed this is an ancient tradition; just think that the markets in Bolzano was born in 1990.
But, in Italy you will not find only Christmas markets. Trentino Alto Adige and Friuli Venezia Giulia area are both famous for a particular Christmas event that is funny but at the same time disturbing. In Austria and other German-speaking countries, includes German-speaking Italian territories, December 5 is Krampusnacht, that means the night when Krampus create chaos roaming around the city with bells, chains, wooden sticks and whips. Legend says that during ancient periods of famine, young boys of mountain villages terrorized the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages in order to rob their stocks. Since they were dressed up as strange animals, they were unrecognizable. But one day, they realized that among them there was also the devil himself who joined the young boys group due to his real aspect. Saint Nicholas managed do defeat the devil and forced him to become his servant. For this reason, the figure of Krampus are closely connected with Christian religion. Moreover, December 6 is Saint Nicholas’ Day. During traditional Krampus event, Saint Nicholas hands out sweets to all the people of the village and tries to calm Krampus’ rage. When the sun goes down, Saint Nicholas leaves the procession and the Krampus remain uncontrolled. They leave the procession only very late at night. Maybe the famous Italian Christmas quote “During Christmas time we are all better” comes from this funny tradition: try to be better to avoid being overwhelmed by Krampus’ wrath.
So during Christmas period different villages in Trenino Alto Adige and Friuli Venezia Giulia area are characterized by traditional processions: adults of all ages disguise themselves as monsters and they parade throughout the street of the town doing chaos around. These “monsters” run and scream everywhere wielding bells and bracers, creating columns of fire that light up the night. They can run like crazy but they also cross the town with motorcycles and wagons that are created specifically for the parade. Usually the most common custom is that of the devil with masks, horns and dark colours, especially red and black. People also wear horn and items like whips or bells to frighten the spectators.
In spite of everything, the real Christmas message is one of peace and hope. It may be that the image of Saint Nicholas handing out candies takes its inspiration from the desire of peace that comes with Christmas time.