If you aren’t yet familiar with the infamous pagan hero known as Krampus, it’s time you got introduced. As the holiday season approaches, he’s getting ready to rid towns of their naughtiest inhabitants.
The Alpine regions’ favorite Christmas demon has finally gained popularity across the seas. Now, you can find Krampusnachts, Krampuslaufs, and other spirited festivities across the United States that celebrate this grizzly character.
It might not be surprising that big cities like Los Angeles and Chicago have jumped on the bandwagon, but Krampus has also found his way into the hearts of some less likely places.
Outside of Europe, you’ll be more hard-pressed to find truly authentic ceremonies, though a few do exist here. Each location in the States has their own way of celebrating. Some festivities are more authentic, but others tend to focus on and ramp up the scare factor.
The event company Thirteenth Floor Entertainment features a Krampus Haunted Christmas in ten cities around the States - Portland, Denver, Jacksonville, Chicago, New Orleans, Columbus, Nashville, Austin, Houston, and Phoenix. These events are less folklore-infused and more of a clash between Halloween and Christmas.
Here’s some unique and interesting locations to celebrate Krampus in the United States:
New York City - Blood Manor Scare Factory
For one day only, New York turns its world-class haunted house, The Blood Manor Scare Factory, into a terrifying celebration for Krampus. Run through this haunted house while an assortment of demon friends chase and terrorize you. Of course, Krampus himself is also in there somewhere.
The experience is described as “fully immersive and interactive”, with the idea being that you’re venturing through the elusive lair that Krampus takes the naughty children to. Exit onto Broadway and find creepy photo opportunities awaiting you.
There’s also an annual Krampus Fest in New York City that features a live DJ and a wheel of doom, hosted by The Bayou cajun restaurant.
Portland, Oregon - Krampus Haunted Christmas
Portland’s definitely embracing more of the horrific side of the goat demon. The city puts on a Christmas-themed interactive haunted house, and you can take your photo with Krampus the same way children take their photos on Santa’s lap every year. Evil elves slither about in the shadows, ready to aid Krampus’ efforts to snatch up children.
In typical PDX fashion, many of the people involved embrace the artsy, theatrical side of things. The haunted house works with professional makeup artists and costume designers. True Portland Krampus fans start creating woven ivy masks months ahead of time for the annual Krampuslauf. Devotees even craft their own birch floggers and track down vintage Krampus claws.
Source: Krampus Haunted Christmas
Bellingham, Washington - Krampus Kon & Seasonal Booze
Since 2012, our quirky hometown of Bellingham has been putting on a yearly Krampus Kon. This pub crawl starts downtown with costumed Krampus fans working their way across the town, harassing the Santa Claus pub crawl along the way.
The good people of Bellingham are into Krampus enough that a few local businesses have their own seasonal products to celebrate him. Chuckanut Bay Distillery’s only seasonal alcohol release is a Krampus-inspired liqueur of locally-grown ingredients like wheat, honey, roasted hazelnuts, and spices. Here at Sea Witch Botanicals, we release a much sought after line of holiday-scented products named after our ghoulish friend.
Los Angeles, California - Krampuslauf, Ball, and 18th Century Theatrical Play
LA has a few different things going on in December. They host a yearly Krampuslauf that’s not so much a run or a parade, but “more of an interactive ruckus featuring a couple dozen yuletide devils and mountain spirits in handcrafted costumes”. There’s live metal music, vendors, German food, and performances.
Los Angeles also puts on an 18th Century-inspired play based on the old traditional Nikolausspiel (Nicholas play) that would take place in Central Europe. They’ve translated a few centuries-old surviving German scripts to put on a tradition that has largely died out even in Austria. It’s a truly unique experience, recognized by UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
Source: Krampus Los Angeles
Washington, D.C. - Krampusnacht
The D.C. Krampusnacht really has its own thing going on that’s a bit different from other festivities around the nation. This event is more family-friendly and has a charitable angle. The group that puts it on describes it as an “inclusive community event” that allows “creative types to celebrate the holiday season” while raising funds to support D.C. foster youth.
The night is filled with family-friendly events that lead into fire dancing, traditional folk dances, and gifts for children. Eventually, it does turn into an adults-only party with a DJ, a costume contest, and booze - but it’s still all for a good cause.
Bloomington, Indiana - Krampus Rampage & Bazaar
Bloomington holds the largest Krampus event in North America. Started in 2012, the “Krampus Rampage” is made to be a celebratory nighttime winter parade that promotes good behavior and dissuades bad behavior. They aim for historical accuracy while creating something that is visually striking, engaging, and full of performance art.
Here, you’ll find a parade of hairy beasts and fire performers alike. Festivalgoers have the option to don a “naughty” or “nice” sticker. Those with naughty stickers open themselves up for lashings and harassment from Krampus-claden merrymakers. People who opt to wear nice stickers receive candy and are left unscatched.
St. Paul, Minnesota - Celebrating Alpine Heritage
Minnesota Krampus aims to promote the culture and customs of alpine holiday traditions. They also provide academic scholarships to college students who are interested in topics involving the Alps and its people.
The organization has put a lot of effort into researching the most authentic masks and costumes from the areas near Salzburg, Austria. They have hand-carved wooden masks and full-body hair suits that come from this region. Not only do they put on an annual Krampusnacht, but they hold events throughout the year. These midwesterners are serious about their Krampus.
New Orleans, Louisiana - Krewe of Krampus
The New Orleans Krewe of Krampus is all about keeping things more on the traditional side. Each year, they put on the Krampus NOLAuf Parade. It’s a big spectacle with performers, German witches, woodland spirits, and other pagan creatures. Unique to the New Orleans parade is the Sisters of Shh, a clan of icy beauty queens whose presence serves as a warning that Krampus is soon to come.
Of course, in true NOLA style, they have their own Krampus Horns Brass Band. The people who participate in this event say that it feels “like Mardi Gras in December”.
The whole thing is followed up with a big afterparty where there’s German beer, pretzels, and live performances. Plus, a grand entrance from Krampus himself.
St. Louis, Missouri - Krampus Research Association
Yup, that’s right. St. Louis has a research association for Krampus. This year will mark their seventh annual Krampusnacht, which is mostly a pub crawl. This group considers themselves a “society for the advancement of Krampus-related studies”. The association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that serves as an educational organization.
Columbia, South Carolina - The Oldest Celebration in America
Columbia is able to boast that it was the first to host a traditional celebration of the Christmas devil in the United States, starting in 2010. Their Krampusnacht is filled with booze and beatings, Austria-style. It’s a night of revelry, where it’s encouraged to revel hard. As founder Christopher Bickel proclaims, “The naughty will atone!”
Will you be celebrating a new tradition this year?
Psst! For a full listing of Krampus groups throughout the United States, check out the Index of Krampus.
Feature image sourced from kreweofkrampus.com