When Coca-cola invented Santa Claus, they left out an integral part of yuletide myth — the Krampus.
According to RVA Krampusnacht co-founder Parker Galore, the origin of Krampus is in a horned, satyr-like forest deity from the pre-christian era of the alpine regions of eastern Europe.
“I think it’s important to celebrate our wildside,” Galore said. “To bring a little quirkiness back into it. A little darkness.”
As part of ancient yuletide lore, Galore said the men of these village would dress up as the god, draped in horns and animal skins on the eve of winter. He said they put on a huge celebration, parading through streets yelling and drumming.
Galore said they also carried swatches and brooms, sweeping the windowsills and doorways of village houses to cleanse and ward off evil spirits.
“It was like a big party,” Galore said. “People would raise a huge ruckus.”
RVA Krampusnacht celebrated its fourth iteration this weekend Dec. 2 and 3, with a Krampus-themed art and craft show hosted at arts-nonprofit Gallery5, followed by a Krampus Walk in Carytown.
During the Krampus Walk on Dec. 3, participants dress in furs, horns and devil masks and march through the heart of Carytown, beating drums and yelling.
When Christianity arrived on scene, Galore said Krampus was demonized and assimilated into the mythos of St. Nicholas.
“They made him into the bad cop to St. Nick’s good cop,” Galore said.
In this new Christmas lore, Galore said Krampus played the boogeyman, coming on Christmas night to beat misbehaving children with a switch, or even kidnap them.
“They used Krampus to scare children into being good,” Galore said.
Artist Brandon Dawley presented Krampus-themed pieces at the show and said he was particularly interested in bringing Krampus back into the Christmas mythos in order to balance out the light with the dark.
“Santa Claus came with this bag full of gifts and Krampus came with an empty bag he fills with naughty children,” Dawley said.
According to Galore, when Coca-Cola derived Santa Claus from St. Nicholas more than a century ago, they left out Krampus.
“Coca-Cola got rid of a lot of elements from these alpine traditions,” Galore said. “Lately, there’s been a big push to bring Krampus into American yuletide lore.”
He said this is what inspired him and Nicole Pisaniello to found RVA Krampusnacht.
“I really thought nothing like that could happen here,” Pisaniello said. “But, people jumped right on board.”
Philadelphia native Eve Putkovich said she was only in Richmond for the weekend, and happened upon the Krampus walk on accident.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Philadelphia native Eve Putkovich. “The tongues! I love the tongues on the costumes. Seems like a good a idea, bad kids getting punished. I like that.”
Pisaniello said that each year the walk and show have grown, with this year making record numbers of near a hundred Krampus walk participants, and more than 30 artists presenting Krampus-themed work at Gallery5.
“It’s our first time doing it,” said Krampusnacht participant Aaron Hallman. “We’re not into the traditional judeo-christian celebrations. I wanted to be a pretty demon, if there’s such a thing.”
RVA Krampusnacht hosted a toy drive through Red Vein Army to benefit Scares That Care!, a nonprofit which brings together horror fans to benefit children with cancer.
To get involved with RVA Krampusnacht next year, visit the website at http://rvakrampus.blogspot.com/
Jesse is a junior print journalism major and Arabic and Middle Eastern culture minor. He has walked in the valley with no water and bitten the heads off of snakes.
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