Frau Perchta, the terrifying Christmas witch of the Alps who roams the countryside during the twelve nights of Christmas and especially on the twelfth night in search of the naughty. As she enters houses she knows if the children had been good and worked hard throughout the year. If they had, they might find a gift of a silver coin. If they had been bad or lazy they would have a much different visit from this old crone.
Punishment from the Frau came in the form of slitting open your belly with the large knife she carries under her skirt. She then rips out your guts and stuffs you with straw and pebbles. Leaving you stitched back up using rope, wire or chains. In other words, you better be good.
Getting fair warning that you are in the presence of the Frau is difficult as she has somewhat different looks depending on what area she comes from. To be safe at the NOLAuf just keep a look out for these wrinkled old crones, wearing garments that are tattered and torn.
To make things even more tricky, the Frau is thought to be a shapeshifter which is symbolized by her having one large foot or goose foot. With the second foot being the one of a spinning-woman’s that worked the treadle.
For those who have behaved all year, fear not, as you will enjoy the parade. For those who haven’t, even if the Frau passes you by, you may get a visit from her Italian counterpart, La Befana who walks with the Y’ules.