Krampusnacht (Photo by Dave Parrish)
He sees you when you’re sleeping, knows when you’re awake. But instead of withholding gifts, Santa Claus’s wicked older brother, the Krampus, may just carry you away to your doom in a wicker basket.
“Krampus was a part of yuletide lore long before the Americanized version of Christmas happened,” says artist and promoter Parker Galore, who has helped to popularize the centuries-old, mythological Bad Santa with an annual Krampusnacht celebration, one of nearly three dozen tributes that take place across the world. “This is really us bringing the character, that figure of the dark side of St. Nicholas, back into the story.”
Entering its fourth year, Richmond’s Krampusnacht kicks off with a Krampus-themed “Yuletide Monsters” art show at Gallery5 on Dec. 2. Local artists will pay tribute to Santa’s demonic, long-forgotten European relative with paintings, costumes, sculpture, jewelry and a pointy horn or two. The collective Red Vein Army plans a charity toy drive called Krampus Kinder Nacht, and there will be live bands and a “Holidaze” market.
Local artist and Krampus aficionado Lauren Onça O’Leary hopes to have her “A Krampus Karol” coloring book ready to sell at the big affair — she’s raised more than $700 in an IndieGoGo campaign to fund the interactive bio. “He’s the charming alpine anti-hero of the winter holidays,” she explains. “He’s the horned wild man who accompanies good St. Nick on his rounds, and instead of giving out presents, he carries a switch and carts off the naughty in his magic sack.”
Richmond Krampusnacht concludes on Dec. 3 with a Krampus Walk in Carytown, a tribute to the centuries-old prosecutor of children that features fans in elaborate Krampus costumes and other macabre Christmas-related regalia. The colorful parade, which begins at Citizen Burger Bar (across from the Byrd Theatre) at sundown, has grown in size. Last year’s “The Krampus” horror movie helped to bring out a more mainstream crowd, and the once flash-mob-like affair is turning into a rowdy (if good-natured) GWAR for kids. Galore, a co-founder of Gallery5 who started the popular Carnival of Five Fires events, points out, “A lot of parents bring their kids out, sometimes already in costume.”
The aim of Krampusnacht, he says, is not only to celebrate the original, earthier holiday traditions, but to also give the pointy horn to established ones.
“Christmas has become such an over-commercialized holiday,” he says. “It’s just about spending money. Krampus kind of brings a little mischief back into Christmas.”
For more on the 2016 RVA Krampusnacht, go to rvakrampus.blogspot.com.