The traditions related to St. Nicholas originated in France during the middle ages before spreading throughout Europe. Since then in Bavaria the running of the Buttnmandl and Krampus from door to door in the Berchtesgadener Land has been closely associated with ‘St. Nick’s’ visit – in fact, in the Berchtesgaden area you’ll never see one without the other.
Buttenmandl and Krampusse are costumes worn by young single men and consist of animal skins and fur masks with long red tongues adding to their frightening appearance. Attached to their backs are large cow-bells weighing up to 45 pounds used to make loud and frightening noises. They follow Saint Nicholas from house to house on December 5 and 6 each year to bring luck to the good and punish the idle. As they accompany Saint Nicholas, they will flick switches at the legs of young girls in a sign of fertility. Their mission is also to chase away evil spirits at the dark time of year (near the winter solstice) and to awaken Mother Nature slumbering deep under the hard frozen ground.