WARNING… Krampus to attack Ypsi on Dec. 11…

OK, now that all the cyber chatter has died down a bit, I thought that I’d come out from my hole and explain what happened, and why there isn’t going to be a winter Shadow Art Fair this year. First, though, before I do that, I just want to say, for the record, that our beloved Shadow Art Fair isn’t dead. It isn’t even a teensy bit sick. Those of us responsible for the Shadow just decided, in the wake of last summer’s big, multi-venue event, which was our most ambitious to date, to give ourselves a little break and try something new come winter. I know it may not seem like it, but it’s really a lot of work to pull off a Shadow Art Fair, and, after doing about ten of them back-to-back, we needed to have a little change of pace. Rest assured, though, next July there will be another Shadow Art Fair, bigger and better than ever.

As for what we decided to do this winter in lieu of the Shadow, it involves a fellow that we’ve discussed here on the site before – a certain cloven-footed friend of St. Nicholas’s named Krampus.

Friend probably isn’t the right word. He’s more like an employee of the jolly old elf… I’ve heard Krampus referred to St. Nick’s “dark assistant”… In the parlance of American popular culture, you could say that he’s the bad cop to St. Nick’s good one.

And we’ve decided to celebrate him, in all his gruesome, child-eating horribleness on the night of Saturday, December 11.

krampussmI’ve been fascinated with Krampus for the past several years, since I first learned of his existence through my friend, the cultural anthropologist of all things strange and Fortean, Doug Skinner. Doug had sent me a turn-of-the-century Austrian greeting card. On it, Krampus, a large, shaggy, bipedal horned beast with wild, flaming eyes and a forked tongue, was lashing plump, rosy-cheeked children and stuffing them into sacks… I was hooked.

With Doug’s help, I began to learn about this fellow, who, in addition to Krampus, has gone by names such as Knecht Ruprecht, Perchten, Pelznickel, Black Peter, and Klaubaur. According to pre-Christian Alpine tradition, while old St. Nick went about the business of handing out treats to the good children at the turn of the new year, old Krampus would be dispatched to punish the bad. He, in other words, was the stick to Santa’s carrot – a tool used to ensure good behavior. Children, if they were good, would get candy and presents. And, if they weren’t, they wouldn’t just get lumps of coal come Christmas morning – they’d be thrown into the pits of hell by a cloven-footed monster covered in matted black fur. But, as brilliant of an idea as it is, for whatever reason, Krampus hasn’t made the leap to the shores of America, where all the children, regardless of how evil and disrespectful they might be, can expect to be rewarded with video games and cigarettes come yule-tide.

In countries like Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Slovenia, however, he’s still very much a part of the Christmas tradition. The following comes from Wikipedia:

…Traditionally, young men dress up as the Krampus in the first two weeks of December, particularly on the evening of 5 December, and roam the streets frightening children and women with rusty chains and bells. In some rural areas the tradition also includes birching – corporal punishment with a birch rod – by Krampus, especially of young girls. Images of Krampus usually show him with a basket on his back used to carry away bad children and dump them into the pits of Hell…

And, given how snotty the little boys and girls of Ypsi Arbor can be, I’ve always wanted to find a way to introduce him here.

So, upon the completion of the last Shadow Art Fair, when we started talking about the collective toll that it had taken us – jurying, promoting, and running huge back-to-back events for the past five years – I threw out the idea of a midnight Krampus parade through the streets of Ypsi, during which people, dressed like monsters, would rattle chains and terrify children into being good and respectful. And, as things often do when it comes to the Michigan Design Militia, the idea kind of grew from there, as everyone in the group contributed their own ideas, ultimately becoming something much better.

krampus08So, a few weeks ago, we made the announcement. We told people that, on the night of Saturday, December 11, we’d be hosting a kind of glam, sci-fi monster dance party at the Corner Brewery. We’re calling it the Krampus Ball, and we’re kind of thinking of it like a monster prom. We didn’t mention it in the release, but, the way it stands now, at some point before midnight, we’d all then make our way, in costume, across town, ending up at the Savoy, for the second phase of the party, which will culminate in an Krampus-inspired edition of the drag show Elbowdeep. There’s other stuff as well, but I’ll leave all that for a later day. The only thing you need to know now is that, if you’re in the area on December 11, and feel like doing something wonderfully and incredibly un-holiday-like, we’ve got something going on in Ypsi.

And, to be honest, I don’t know if people will show up, and that’s kind of what I find most interesting about it. When we launched the Shadow Art Fair, it was the same kind of thing. We did it for ourselves, because we wanted to have a good time. We didn’t have any preconceived ideas about how many people would show up, or how much money would be earned by our vendors. We just invited our friends who were doing interesting stuff to have tables, and thought, even if no customers at all showed up, we’d have a hell of a good time just sitting around, drinking beer, and talking about our projects. And, we thought, good things would likely come of it in terms of building community. As it played out, though, well over a thousand people showed up. People, it would seem, were hungry for a more approachable, cooler response to the Ann Arbor Art Fair, and we were overwhelmed. I doubt the same thing will happen this time, but it doesn’t matter. If 20 people show up, or 200, we’ll have a great time dancing around to stuff like Bela Lugosi’s Dead and Moonage Daydream, spanking naughty kids, and drinking beer. (People in lederhosen, by the way, really will be getting spanked.)

So, if you get burned out on holiday parties and find that you could use an unseasonably dark release, or if you just find yourself wanting to lash out against the over-commercialization of Christmas, or even if you just like dressing up and drinking beer, come and join us on December 11 as we take back the holiday season on behalf of Santa’s dark assistant.

Oh, I should mention that while we won’t be having vendors at the event, we’ll still have special Shadow Brews on tap one naughty, one nice), just like during the Shadow Art Fair. I’ll save that for a future post, though.

So, yeah… I know some of you are disappointed, as you liked buying your holiday gifts at the winter Shadow, and I’m sorry about that. But we needed to shake things up a bit this winter for our own mental health. Maybe it would be different if the five of us who put on the Shadow did it for a living, and this is what we did for an income, but it’s not. We aren’t paid, and we don’t want to be. We do this for fun. And we need to keep it fun in order to keep it going. So, before you freak out, and send that nasty email about how we’re “ruining the scene,” I’d like you to keep two things in mind – first, that there’s still going to be a Shadow Art Fair in July, and, second, that we’ve never steered you wrong before. So, do me a favor, and have a little faith.

And, here, because she’s more eloquent than I am, is what my friend Jennifer had to say about the event.

“What we’ve done is taken the vendor-based fair out of the game for this winter’s event and replaced it with something that really allows anyone in the community to show their artistic side. Everyone can participate in this winter’s Shadow! Each time we plan a Shadow, we’re trying to think of ways to expand our event deeper within the community. Ultimately, that’s what everyone wants, and we feel our solution does just that! There will be costumes and dancing and parades and DJs and ‘prom pics’, best of all, it’s basically a big ol’ party! This winter’s Shadow Art Fair is not even a fair – it’s a Krampus Costume Ball.”

I should also mention, for those folks who wanted an opportunity to buy locally made holiday gifts and such, that there are options. Almost as soon as we made the announcement about there not being a traditional Shadow Art Fair this December, a bunch of other capable people jumped in to plan their own events. In addition to the Detroit Urban Craft Fair, which takes place on December 4-5, there’s also an event called DIYpsi, which will take place the day of our Krampus Ball, from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM, at the Savoy, and, that same day, there will be something in Ann Arbor called the Tiny Expo from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM. I’m sure that, between them, you can find everything you need.

Oh, and if you want to discuss the Shadow Art Fair, Krampus, and other things in the works by the Michigan Design Militia, you can come and join us at Connor O’Neil’s tomorrow (Wednesday) in Ann Arbor, where we’ll be talking as part of the Concentrate Media speaker series. The event, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled to run from 5:00 to 7:00, and, best of all, free beer will be served. If you’re interested, you do have to register, though, and you can do that here.

See you soon.

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  1. Posted November 9, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Okay Mark, I said this on FB but I’ma say it on here too…I can’t imagine the kind of work that goes into pulling off the SAF. You all are volunteers for God’s sake! If you need a break, take a break!! Personally, I think this sounds like a lot of fun. I am thinking I get to wear an Outfit for this. What kind of Outfit shall I wear? Can I work the cheerleading uniform into it somehow? Wouldn’t that be great?

    Seriously, you all do damn fine work! Now I feel like I should volunteer to help with the next SAF? Do you need help? How can I help?

    This events sounds like a blast…I have like three other things to do that night but man, you had me at the suggestion that I could wear an Outfit! <3

  2. Posted November 9, 2010 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    That’s supposed to be a heart at the end.

  3. Brandon
    Posted November 9, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Wow, this is pretty great.

  4. Patrick Bateman
    Posted November 10, 2010 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    So it’s a working vacation. That’s cool.

  5. roots
    Posted November 10, 2010 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    I am planning a costume right now…

  6. Tommy
    Posted November 10, 2010 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    If this is half as fun (I have no doubt it will be as beer will be involved) as the Zombie march thru the streets of Ann Arbor was few years back, it will be a blast.

  7. Edward
    Posted November 10, 2010 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Can people bring their bad children to be punished, or is this an adult only event? And, if you do bring kids, do they have to be yours. If you can bring kids, and if they don’t need to be yours, I’d like to bring the eight that live in the house next door to me.

  8. Done Waiting
    Posted November 10, 2010 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    So, when you say “that our beloved Shadow Art Fair isn’t dead” do you intend that in the same way that Crimewave isn’t dead either? A 3+ year bed rest?

  9. Jules
    Posted November 10, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    C’mon, Mark, there’s no need to feel apologetic for taking a break. All of you deserve it. And anyway, THIS IS AN AWESOME IDEA!!!!! I’m so excited. And just think, as a bonus, you may be making many people with spanking fetishes (both spankers and spankees!) super happy.
    Though, I am curious. How did this detail escape your attention?
    “birching – corporal punishment with a birch rod – by Krampus, especially of young girls.” Whaaaaa……hmmmm, methinks, Krampus is a bit of a perv. Excellent!

  10. Andy C
    Posted November 10, 2010 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    I hope some one will be there dressed as the Krampus to whip those not in costume or is costume required for entry?

    I kind of figured the Summer one would turn into the non-commercial fair with sculpture races, film competitions, etc. and the winter would be the holiday selling one. It’s good to see the hole for local alternative holiday shopping filled in so quickly this year. It’s a win win for everyone. I’m looking forward to the ball.

    This is also happening…

  11. jean
    Posted November 10, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I am beginning work on my Perchta costume immediately. Should I start with the giant swan foot, the club, the fur or the fangs? Hmmmm.

  12. Knox
    Posted November 10, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    The mention of the Santa zombie thing reminds me of this piece of audio documentation.


  13. PG13
    Posted November 10, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I respect peoples’ entrepreneurial spirit and how quickly they jumped in to fill the niche that you established, but something about it strikes me as icky.

  14. Jen Eastridge
    Posted November 10, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    I am SO excited about this event, but can someone tell me what time it begins…..? I can’t imagine it’s from 12-12 like the vendor fairs, right? If I can get that piece figured out, then I am all set! I’ve started my costume and am spreading the word about this event to friends who enjoy a little darkness around the holidays. >: ) Can’t wait!

  15. Oliva
    Posted November 10, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Like TeacherPatti, I’m always thankful (and in awe) about the many events and possibilities you help bring about, and I’ve been much too slow–distracted by really worthy things and, alas, by politics, losing my footing oh boy–to express my thanks for a truly delightful afternoon show at the Dreamland Theater back in October. We arrived late, so I missed some of the show and also finding out who the younger puppet was (who later got kicked out for being too enamored of a hilarious song about boys growing up to be everything and anything and girls growing up to be their wives–which got repudiated by puppet Mark and the many young girls in the audience who have all the pizzazz and potential in the world and demonstrated it). There was a fun contest, with mystery candy in a cool wooden bin, and I would love to tell in detail all there was because it was just so outstandingly wonderful and great for the spirit and just great for our lovable town and the lucky people at the show. There was music, snacks for children, a charming puppet Mark who managed to carry on some great interviews with guests upon the stage without really being able to see them and engage, but engage he did, with such true curiosity and love. (Julie Andrews without the singing–one of many highlights, that interview.)

  16. Posted November 10, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    I want to get to one of the Dreamland events…one of these days :)

    Okay, I think this is my monster: http://www.monstropedia.org/index.php?title=Wood-Wife

    I’ll get started on my leaf costume.

  17. Bob
    Posted November 11, 2010 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    “I respect peoples’ entrepreneurial spirit and how quickly they jumped in to fill the niche that you established, but something about it strikes me as icky.”

    yep. slightly less snotty and pretentious than the zombie bit though.

  18. Rex
    Posted November 11, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    This reminds me of Black Piet in the Netherlands. He appears on all of the christmas-themed stuff there. He is obviously another version of the krumpus, but in Holland he is represented by white people in black face. So crazily racist in my american eyes.


    probably not a suggested costume for an event in ypsi.

  19. Edward
    Posted November 11, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    When you say you crawled out of your hole, is this the hole you crawled out of?


  20. Andy C
    Posted November 11, 2010 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    I agree with PG13. These other groups also strike me as icky. I’m gonna boycott buying DIY this year and shop at Walmarts.

  21. Bob
    Posted November 11, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    “shop at Walmarts.”

    you can stop by Kmarts’ and Meijers’ on your way home

  22. Edward
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Is Walmart open at 2:00 AM? If so, it might be fun to stop in after Savoy closes. It would take a hell of a lot to get me into a Walmart, but a drunken drag show might do it.

  23. Stephen
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    I need a costume idea. So far, all I have is “fur”. That’s my only idea. Can I get some help?

  24. Posted November 12, 2010 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    There are many clips of Krampus parades on YouTube. Inspiration awaits!

  25. Posted November 13, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m watching a video now, Doug, and it’s frightening me. I didn’t have anything quite so evil in mind.

  26. Jules
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Edward, that’s a great site.

  27. Megan
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I LOVE the Krampus Ball idea and am working on getting a crew of costumed pals to join me for a Krampus Kostume Kamp so we can work on our duds together! I have some old bridesmaid dresses to re-purpose and I’m thinking ‘Tim Burton – Nightmare Before Christmas – ghoulishly glam’. Hopefully that fits in! Should be a fun night either way. :)

5 Trackbacks

  1. By What to wear to the Krampus Ball on November 21, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    […] looking around the internet for inspiration to guide me as I set out to make my costume for the big Krampus event on December 11. All I know at this point, is that I want something that won’t disintegrate when subjected to […]

  2. By Krampus posters will be going into production soon on November 23, 2010 at 8:47 am

    […] on the Krampus event can be found here.] This entry was posted in Ann Arbor, Art and Culture, Mark’s Life, Shadow Art Fair, Special […]

  3. By Elizabeth Skene » Blog Archive » Ypsilanti Love on December 8, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    […] One of things I love most about Ypsilanti is that it’s incredibly vibrant and has so much to offer, without losing all of it’s grittiness [like this drug dealer that lives a street over] or sense of creativity & community [does your town have a Krampus Costume Ball?]. […]

  4. […] looking around the internet for inspiration to guide me as I set out to make my costume for the big Krampus event on December 11. All I know at this point is that I want something that won’t disintegrate when subjected to […]

  5. By It’s beginning to look a lot like Krampus on December 19, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    […] And here, if you’re unfamiliar with the backstory, is a clip from something that I posted back in 2010, prior to our first event. […]

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