The Niglo Procession on the eve of St Nicholas Day (6 December) is an annual highlight of the Advent season in the Upper Austrian municipality of Windischgarsten. It consists of about 30 people: the night watchman, the “Nigloherr” (a gentleman in city clothes) and the “Niglofrau” (a younger woman wearing a white dress and a crown), several “Nigeln” (masked “Krampus” figures with bells and birch rods fastened to their fur costumes), several angels, the devil, Saint Nicholas, and various supporting characters.
This colourful group assembles by the Heimathaus and then proceeds through the market to the Rathaushof, where the figures present themselves on the stage and the “Nigloherr” and Saint Nicholas each recite a poem. At the end, all of the children present receive a small gift. The Niglo Procession is part of the cultural heritage of Windischgarsten and is practised only there in this form. Unlike other “Krampus” and “Perchten” runs, the Niglo Procession focuses on the good, in the person of Saint Nicholas, and not on the devilish element. This custom is maintained by the local folklore association (Trachtenverein). Each year, over 30 people of all ages participate, playing the various figures. The knowledge associated with the Niglo Procession is passed down both orally and practically from generation to generation and is thus kept alive and vital.
The first written evidence of the custom of the Niglo Procession dates back some 150 years. In 1958 the tradition was modified: while the figures previously proceeded from house to house in groups called Passen, the Trachtenverein now holds the procession for the general public in Windischgarsten’s market area. This custom was originally practised every other year, but since 2000 the procession has been held annually.
As various Krampus-related festivities are enjoying increasing popularity with young people, including those of Windischgarsten, there is fear that the custom of the Niglo Procession could be supplanted by those types of boisterous, terrifying processions, which have more of an event character.