In several places around the world where this folklore has survived over the years, despite frequent attempt by the church to crush it, there is a tradition of the Krampuslauf. Literal translation “Krampus Run”, this is more commonly known as the Krampus Parade. People dress up as the goat demon (and possible pagan god) Krampus, his violent cadre of elves, and women have been known to dress up as the murderously tempered Christmas witch Frau Perchta as part of the parade.
Jangling chains and bells, brandishing bundles of birch twigs, juggling and whipping at the crowd, the parade of winter monsters cavorts through the streets in a dark festive revel weeks before the holidays proper. In theory to terrify children into behaving, a noble cause indeed, but mostly to dress up and have fun.
No small amount of drinking is involved, which likely hasn’t hurt the tradition endure over the centuries. The Krampus Parades are growing in popularity, the Internet has made the world a smaller place and no small amount of people enjoy the macabre even before you add the chance to dress up as demons to get drunk in a street party.
If you want to join in the celebrations Germany, Austria, and other Alpine countries have either kept the tradition alive or else have been enjoying modern revivals. Salzburg in Austria is especially well known for it, having celebrations for days in the run up to their Kramluslauf. Be warned, though, that on the 5th their Krampuslauf still is a traditional run through the streets, and if you aren’t ready to run yourself away from those in costume you’re liable to be smacked about and whipped once caught!
Krampus is also alive and well in the United States, and has been since Alpine region immigrants brought the stories over. Modern revivals have really been picking up, too. Krampus Los Angeles is getting big, you can have breakfast with Krampus in Rochester New York, Portland Oregon and Bloomington Indiana have growing Krampusnacht festivals, then there’s the Philadelphia Krampuslauf… Only a running a few years as an annual city sanctioned event, the Philadelphia Krampuslauf stands out as it has been incorporating other traditional Christmas monsters such as the Icelandic Yule Lads as a part of the fun.
That the home of Gritty loves monsters and drunken street parties is no surprise, really, and it’s going to be interesting to see how much more the Krampus Parades can spread around the world. Have you got any photos to share, or stories from, a Krampuslauf? Everything is a bit indoors 2020, but we can enjoy the memories and start preparing for next year.
This has been Luke Greensmith for Grimoire of Horror, stay on the Nice list if you know what’s good for you and I hope you have a fun Krampusnacht.
Luke Greensmith is an active folklorist and big horror fan who also works in film across a few roles. While this can cover quite a wide range of things, he’s a dedicated horror fan at heart and pretty involved with horror communities both online and local to him. You can find their folklore work on the Ghost Story Guys Podcast, their own LukeLore podcast, and accompanying the artist Wanda Fraser’s Dark Arts series as well as on the Grimoire of Horror itself.