The Bone House of Hallstatt

Austria

Hallstatt has been an isolated small village for thousands of years. It lies at a small bank between the bottom of a steep hillside and a lake and had been famous for hundreds of years because of its rich salt sources. During winter times the village was not accessible from the outside. In the second half of the last century it became a famous tourist destination. Beside its beauty the village is also known for its very special bone house. For hundreds of years inhabitants of Hallstatt were buried on the very small cemetery in the center. For generations it was custom to excavate the bones after ten to twenty years, bleach them and paint them with ornaments, names and dates of birthday and day of death. More than 600 skulls rest in Hallstatt’s small bone house. It is the only known bone house where skull and bones are ornamented. The last ornament had been done in the 1970s by Heinrich Kirchschlager who died in 1976 and ornamented the skull of his father. Today it still would be allowed for the inhabitants to arrange such an after‐death ritual (they have to include this in their last will) but the tradition seem to be forgotten and none of today’s inhabitants (around 700 people) knows the ancient tradition of this cult, so the bone house more and more becomes a tourist attraction…

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Krampus

Austria

Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure – half-goat, half-demon – who literally beats people into being nice and not naughty.

Krampus was created as a counterpart to kindly St. Nicholas, who rewarded children with sweets. Krampus, in contrast, would swat “wicked” children and take them away to his lair.

According to folklore, Krampus purportedly shows up in towns the night before December 6, known as Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night. December 6 also happens to be Nikolaustag, or St. Nicholas Day.

A more modern take on the tradition in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic involves drunken men dressed as devils, who take over the streets for a Krampuslauf—a Krampus Run of sorts, when people are chased through the streets by the “devils.”

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All photos: Michael Biach

Text source: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131217-krampus-christmas-santa-devil/