Krampus fever sweeps nation, enflames Ypsilanti

All of a suden, it seems that Krampus is everywhere. I got a note a few days ago from someone telling me that I’d be getting a call from NPR, as they were working on story about a Krampus festival that folks were working to launch in Philadelphia. I guess, since we started our event last year, that makes us pioneers. As it turns out, they never called, but I have, over the last few months, received emails from at least half a dozen people who wanted to know more about our event because they were considering doing something similar in their area. It’s weird how things like this just take off and sweep across the country. I guess the conditions were just right for it to happen… Speaking of which, a few people sent me emails today, alerting me to the fact that Anthony Bourdain just produced an animated short about Krampus. Although it was made for his television program, No Reservations, it would seem that it won’t be airing. According to the folks as Gawker, the animated segment got pulled by the Travel Channel because of “sensitivities regarding the Penn State Scandal”. Apparently sadistic child-licking, while OK a few months ago, is now, thanks to Jerry Sandusky, considered to be beyond the pale. Here, for those of you who are interested, is Bourdain’s “Krampus Carol.”

Speaking of Krampus related video, as you may have read at today, in addition to everything else, we’re going to have a video installation by Martin Thoburn going Saturday night. Martin was the recipient of one of this year’s Krampus grants. The other recipient was a collective from Wisconsin by the name of The Mad Tinkers. They’ll be bringing in a truckload of custom-built Krampus masks. And, here, with more on that, is a short interview I did with them a few days ago.

MARK: Remind me where you’re from?

TINKERS: The shop is in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere, smack dab in the middle of the state.

MARK: Is it just the demonic imagery that interests you, or was there something about the myth that attracted you?

TINKERS: The demonic imagery is fun and all, but it is important to remember that this imagery was not originally “demonic”. While the core ideas of most pre-christian belief systems have been lost, we are surrounded by their vestigial remains. The christian church has had centuries to twist these remaining vestiges to be something they never were. I apologize if I seem a bit harsh on Christianity, but one can not delve into the subject matter without dealing with historical fact… The myth does attract me. It’s fun. It’s a small piece of pre-christian Europe. It is resistance to the destruction of the Yule holiday by organized religion. Remember, the majority of our Yule season icons have pagan origins. Some of these are the x-mas tree, jule log, holly wreaths, mistletoe and many others. Krampus is the reckoning at the end of the year for past deeds if you are a kid. For us as adults, he is the beginning of putting away the last year, and the solstice marks the start of the new year.

MARK: Do you think there was ever a real Krampus who beat kids with switches and stuffed them into bags? Or was that just a story invented to keep kids from misbehaving?

TINKERS: No, the Germanic way is to scare the crap out of your kids in hope they won’t do the things you did as a kid. Most of the original Grimms’ Fairy tales were like that… That’s not to say that there were not quite a few VERY stern German parents. They were still parents and not a monster.

As for me, I don’t know how long I’ll be able to attend, as we’ve got the brand new baby at home, but I wouldn’t miss the march between the Brewery and the Krampusdeep drag show for anything… It was seriously my favorite Ypsi moment last year… Speaking of which, if you have access to tiki torches, please bring them. The more torches we’ve got, the better.

[More details on Saturday’s festivities can be found here.]

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  1. Eel
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I can’t be there. If I were going to be there, though. I’d be the Krampus in the lab coat.

  2. Michael
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Will the evening be anything like this?

  3. K2
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Here’s how the Krampi parade in Austria.

  4. LLC
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    If it’s like last year, it’ll be more like this.

  5. AndySh
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Well, if Krampus it getting too trendy now, you could always switch to Caganer:
    Everybody, pull down your pants and take a crap for LBJ (Little Baby Jesus)!

  6. Posted December 21, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    some of the earlier descriptions of krampus sounds like a neaderthal, or a bigfoot, prior to the horns…and native americans in the northwest regions have old stories about bigfoots stealing kids in the night… thoughts are that early indo-europeans who migrated into the region 10-20 thousand years ago, may have encountered remnants of neandethals, and this could be collective memory still carrying through today.

  7. Posted December 23, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    I have an original Krampus suit and wooden mask from Austria. let me know if anyone wants a visit. I would travel….for a special occasion. I am of German decent, my mother is from Garmisch Partenkirchen Germany…

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