The processions of St. Nicholas are held annually on 5th December, St. Nicholas’s Day and are a longstanding tradition in South Tyrol.
Escorted by his entourage of ‘angels’, the procession of the holy bishop is preceded by an uproar that already started in the preceding days. This is when, on the 5th December, the so-called Krampus, or devils (Tuifl in the local German dialect), wreak havoc in the inhabited centers.
Dressed in animal skins, their faces covered with scary masks, they run amok in the streets, rattling their chains and ringing heavy iron bells.
Back in the old days, these ‘devils’ used to frighten people and scare the ‘naughty’ children. Nowadays, there is nothing more to be afraid of, since the processions are choreographed to perfection and every year provide great entertainment for spectators of all ages. At the end of the procession, St. Nicholas hands out surprise gifts to the ‘good’ kids.
The Krampus and Tuifltog recall the ancient pagan rituals and traditional Celtic customs.
In the age when man still lived out in the open, there were the old beliefs in numerous spirits in nature, including that of the harsh winter, which had to be expelled forcefully. The evil winter spirits were exorcised scary monsters to the noisy accompaniment and the clanging of bells. At the same time, the beating of the rods was meant to promote fertility.
Every valley and each inhabited locality in South Tyrol has its own special way of celebrating this raucous, ancient tradition.
During the processions in Parcines and Rablà, the Höllentol Tuifl (the devils of the valley of hell), provide an escort to St. Nicholas.