Krampusfest Starts Today in Los Angeles

by Lynn Sorel

The third annual Krampusfest is starting today in Los Angeles. The event includes various Krampus-themed activities, including a Krampus Ball, a informative costumed lecture with slideshow, a Krampus run, a Krampus themed rocked show featuring Krammpstein (a hybrid of Rammstein and Krampus), along with a play and a film show. 

More info from the official website:

Now entering its third year, Krampusfest is a multi-venue yuletide celebration of the Krampus tradition produced by Krampus Los Angeles in and around that city.  Traditional dates for Krampus activities are December 5 & 6, but our California celebrations spill generously beyond those dates.

Events include shows of themed art, music, lectures, plays, films, and Krampus runs by the first and largest Krampus troupe in the US, with participation by European Krampus troupe members. Our goal is to entertain, educate, and foster an international connection with a growing community dedicated to playfully reshaping the holiday.

In 2014, Krampus Los Angeles brought the first costumed participants from Europe to participate alongside an American troupe, members of the prestigious Alt Gnigler Krampus Perchten Pass of Salzburg.  In 2015, we host the first large-scale visit from an international troupe, 15 members of the Moor troupe (Moorpass) from Maishofen, Austria.  Since the beginning, we have also drawn costumed participants from elsewhere in California, including members of the Bay Area group Beast Bay Krampus.

In efforts to keep our festival attuned with its European roots, we’ve fostered ties with German cultural organizations in Los Angeles, including the Goethe Institut, German dining, shopping, and entertaining complex, Alpine Village, and the G.T.E.V. D’Oberlandler, a Bavarian music and dance preservationist group that has performed with us since our inception.

About Krampus:

Krampus, or the Krampus, (the name is both a proper and common noun) is a figure of European folklore associated with St. Nicholas and his visits to children on St. Nicholas Day (December 6).  On this day, or the preceding evening, the saint makes his appearance (in traditional bishop’s robes and mitre) to distribute small gifts to children who have behaved.  Children who have misbehaved are menaced by Krampus, the shaggy devil-like beast at his side.  The creature brandishes switches, rattles chains, and carries on his back a large basket in which particularly recalcitrant children are said to be carried off for further punishment.

Krampus or a nearly identical figure is found in Austria, Bavaria, Northeastern Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, the Slovak & Czech Republic, and Croatia. Related dark servants of St. Nicholas are also found elsewhere in Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and Alsatian France. The Krampus-Nicholas tradition took shape in the 17th century, but the saint’s henchman is largely believed to have pre-Christian roots in an ambivalent class of mountain spirits known in Austria and Germany as Perchten.

Krampus Monte Beauchamp bookKrampus  makes live appearances as part of a roving costumed troupe.  Originally these troupes consisted of a Saint Nicholas, accompanied by an angel, a basket-carrier (for the  gifts) and a Krampus or two, but over the last several decades, Krampus has become more prominent, leading to the development of the Krampuslauf (“Krampus run”) in which dozens or perhaps hundreds of participants costumed as Krampus proceed through city streets. Saint NIcholas or the other traditional figures may be barely represented or entirely absent.  Sometimes witches from the Perchten mythology are also included.

In regions where he is known, exchanging Krampus cards (Krampuskarten) featuring playfully menacing renderings of the beast has been a part of pre-Christmas festivities since the late 1800s..  Stateside interest in Krampus has been growing over the last couple decades, thanks in large part to the publication of books like Krampus, The Devil of Christmas and others by enthusiastic Krampus card collector Monte Beauchamp.   Every year these images circulate more widely on the net, and annual Krampus celebrations have already sprung up in Philadelphia, Portland, and dozens of other cities.

American enthusiasm for Krampus has also been driven by media, which for creative reasons, radically re-invents the existing folklore.  Examples would be the publication Krampus the Yule Lord by the artist Brom or the figure’s December 2013 appearance on NBC television series Grimm.  Though the Krampus tradition is necessarily  ever-evolving, and our Los Angeles events would likely prove occasionally puzzzling to visitors from the creature’s homeland, our group is very interested in preserving and educating the public in the tradition as understood in its original cultural context.  For this reason, we will continue to invite those knowledgeable in the tradition to present public lectures and slideshows, as well as contribute articles on the topic.

Below are several articles that further discuss the tradition in the context of our Los Angeles celebrations.

Event List:

THE KRAMPUS: Lecture with Media and Costumes: Saturday, November 28, 2015: The lore of the Krampus illustrated with a festive stream of rare images, film clips, and walk-ons by costumed members of the Krampus LA Troupe at the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles in the midtown museum district.

THE KRAMPUS BALL: Saturday, December 5, 2014: Once again in its chalet-like home in Highland Park, the Krampus Ball, is the scariest costume party this side of the Alps. While we await the storming horde of devils and otherworldly beast of Krampus LA, we’ll be entertained by everyone’s favorite traditional Bavarian dance troupe, GTEV D’Oberlandler back with their alphorns, accordions, cowbells,and lederhosen, German cabaret from  Christina Linhardt and “Tuba” Heatherton, Polka with Linda Herman and the Raving Polka, the experimental, pagan neofolk of Tatzelwurm, and the diabolical dance of Miss Krampest Storm.

LA KRAMPUSLAUF, Thursday, December 10, 2015: This year the Krampus LA troupe will be joined by over a dozen members of the Moorpass Maishofen from Austria!  This first large scale outing by American and Austrian troupes together will cross paths with the Downtown Art-Walk, visit the Pershing Square Holiday Festival, an Austrian Cafe right in downtown LA, and take over a historic retail atrium.

KRAMMPSTEIN at ALPINE VILLAGE: Saturday, December 12, 2015: Rammstein meets Krampus as the horned hybrid Krammpstein performing this year in the über-deutsch ballroom of Alpine Village. Opening acts, and other costumed Christmas devilry TBA. The spectacle takes place in conjunction with Alpine Village’s European-style Christmas Faire, so in the bargain you get mulled wine, German beer, foods, sweets, and tons of snow carted in for the occasion.

ST. NICHOLAS 1888: Traditional Krampus Play and Film: Sunday, December 13, 2015, (Two shows): A traditional Austrian Krampus play from the 1880s complete with St. Nicholas, angels, Death, Lucifer, murderous innkeepers, and Krampuses. Presented with a rare TBA film themed to the occasion.  All in the gothic revival splendor of Pasadena’s historic Anglican Church of the Angels.

You can purchase event tickets here.

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