Special thanks to Paul Koudounaris, for the featured image.
Although Christmas in the United States is traditionally merry and bright, recent years have seen a rebirth of some of the darker traditions spread around Europe, the best known being Krampus. Los Angeles has become home to a thriving community of Krampus enthusiasts, who celebrate with an annual Krampuslauf, or Krampus Run, held downtown.
If you’re unfamiliar with Krampus lore, the figure dates back to pre-Christian Alpine traditions, later incorporated into the Christian winter celebrations. Krampus is a horned, hairy, goat-like creature who punishes naughty children by swatting them with his bundle of birch switches or dragging them back to Hell in his sack. He is in direct contrast with the figure of St. Nicolas, who bestows sweets and gifts upon the good boys and girls.
The hosts of the event, Krampus Los Angeles, is the first troupe of its kind in the Western U.S. It was founded in 2013, and grew to more than 30 members by 2016. The suits worn by members are unique, each the product of many hours of work by hand. While many of the members are costumed as Krampus, there are several other traditional figures who also make a presence, including Perchta, a Christmas witch; Mari Llwyd, a skull-headed hobby horse hailing from Wales; and St. Nicolas himself, waving from the back of a steam-powered car.
As always, the 2018 Krampuslauf, held on December 13, was a riotously good time. A crowd lined a block of Winston Street as the Krampuses began their run with a clatter of cowbells. They ran up and down the street, swatting children and adults alike, accompanying the slow-moving, elaborate car from which St. Nicolas held court, beatifically granting sweets to some, and telling Krampus to spank others.
For one attendee, this year was particularly special. A young Krampus fan was given her first pair of horns, and invited to construct her first costume and join the troupe for the 2019 Krampuslauf!
Interested in constructing your own costume or just want learn more? Check out the Krampus L.A. Troupe website!