Friday, December 6, 2013

Krampusnacht 2013

Fröhliche Sankt Nikolaus Tag!

Husband and I just got back from visiting Husband's family in Seattle, but were in time to see the second annual DC Krampusnacht.

First observation about Krampusnacht: If I had been a child, I would have been terrified. I mean, I was afraid of Santa, so if I was afraid of Santa, than this:

Krampusnacht 2013
or this:

Krampusnacht 2013
would have been the end of me.

Second observation about Krampusnacht: I loved the weird amalgamation of people who paraded down the street. People who had no idea this was happening, but joined in, people who had been planning elaborate costumes for months, some RennFaire kids, some Comicon kids, some Goth-looking kids, a drunk sousaphone player blatting Christmas carols, people promoting Santa's Cause DC, others just giving out candy. There was also some kind of dance troupe who were hitting each other with sticks, as well as some actual Germans (or Swiss, or Austrians, I couldn't tell.) Others just stood by and laughed at the crazy fun of it all. But no one in the crowd seemed to mind the differences, and rather, a dare I say festive? mood won the day. Even the cops seemed bemused.

Third (and mildly theological) observation on Krampusnacht: In the places where Krampusnacht is traditionally observed, the Krampus accompanies St. Nicolas on the eve of St. Nicolas's feast day, December 6th. St. Nicolas rewards the good children, while the Krampus gives out sticks or coal, or beats (really, threatens or pretends to beat) the bad children. The Krampus carries chains, noisemakers, and sometimes a basket on his back to cart bad children off to his lair so he can eat them.
        This idea really appeals to me. Not the eating/beating children part, but the part where the entire community recognizes -- literally, re-cognize, re-thinks-- not just the existence of good, but the existence of evil. It's standing right in front of them, albeit in a cartoonish form, but the chains that bind and the teeth that gnash are reminders of the how evil, even at its most banal, is a force that destroys. Evil rarely looks outwardly like a Krampus. Mostly, it looks like violence behind closed doors, grinding systemic oppression, the rippling effects of poverty, or the crippling indifference to those around us. And if that's not scary, I don't know what is.

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