Nicolo in Vienna by E. R.

Viennese children have a very happy time at Christmas. Not only do they get the ordinary beautiful presents, but there is another festival for them, held at the beginning of December—the 'Nicolo.' This is, properly speaking, only a festival for good children.

Nicolo, who brings the presents, is very strict in inquiring into the behaviour of children, and, should he hear that they have not been good, he does not leave any of his gifts. Every child in Vienna is careful to hang up his stocking on the eve of the 'Nicolo,' and, on the morning of the great day, he wakes up very early to see what is in it. Good children find apples and nuts, but the naughty ones get charcoal instead of something good to eat.

In the afternoon of 'Nicolo' Day, the children get ready to receive the visit of Nicolo himself. A tap is heard at the door, and an old man, with a long white beard and a white gown, appears. He has a large sack on his back, bulging with good things—in fact, the bag is often so full that dolls and whips and whistles can be seen poking out at the top. Behind the kind Nicolo stands another gentleman, dressed in scarlet and black. He does not look either good or kind, and carries a number of birch-rods under his arm. On his back a large basket is strapped; it is made of wood instead of wicker, and is deep and large. This gentleman is the most terrible person in Austria—the much-dreaded 'Krampus.' Fearful stories are told of his dark deeds, and naughty children try to hide themselves when they see the Krampus. But the Krampus keeps behind the good Nicolo, and each child is called forward to give an account of itself.

Nicolo asks the most awkward questions, such as: 'Who stole his sister's sweets last week?' 'Who broke her brother's boat?' When all the questions are answered, the good children receive presents, but naughty boys and girls do not get anything from Nicolo; instead of a puzzle-box, a ball, a new knife, or a doll, they get a gift from the Krampus, and the Krampus only gives one kind of present—a birch-rod. The Vienna confectioners make sugar dolls like the Krampus, and fill his basket with sweets. The Krampus is sometimes made of French plums or almonds and raisins, and his photograph is seen on picture cards.