Krampusnacht: Frightening spin on holiday season


Photo by Isabel Bonebrake

Krampusnacht brought together hundreds of people in Milwaukee’s Historic Brewery District.

While many kids prepare for Christmas by placing their shoes by the door for St. Nicholas or writing letters to Santa Claus, some forget the punishment for those who are not on the nice list. While Santa punishes kids with coal, there is another figure who teams up with St. Nicholas to decide who’s naughty and who’s nice.

This past weekend Krampus decided to make an appearance Sunday night, the eve before his very own holiday. Krampusnacht is typically celebrated Dec. 5.

Originating in Germany, Krampus has become a frightening addition to Christmas celebrations with his horns, spiky teeth and goat-like figure. It is said that this son of Hel joins St. Nicholas on his journey of giving kids treats for being good. While Krampus beats those who have misbehaved with sticks or rods and at times drags them with him to the underworld to eat them.

In celebration of Krampus, numerous organizations come together to dress up in their unique version of what they believe he looks like. With over a thousand people in attendance, Milwaukee’s Historic Brewery District was filled with guests enjoying drinks, live music, festivities and one another’s handmade outfits the night before Krampus was expected to make an appearance to children around the area.

Professor of German, Jenny Watson, has been teaching German language and culture for over 10 years and spent much of her own college experience in Germany.

“This tradition was celebrated in the neighborhoods around us with people dressing up as Krampus and St. Nick while going from house to house, placing small treats or sticks in children’s shoes,” Watson said.

Within the past few years, Krampus has taken the world by storm with countless holiday horror films such as “Krampus: Unleashed” and “Krampus: The Christmas Devil.” Instead of only being celebrated in a few parts of the world, he is now a figure for families and cities across the world.

Tamarind Belly Dance director Super Beth has been a guest at this event for years and is now a member of Milwaukee’s Kramspusnacht as she takes on her own Krampus look.

“As dancers we utilize music from various countries, so we decided to pull outfit inspiration from different folkloric pieces from around the world. Since we listen to music from European countries, we were all very familiar with the mythology of Krampus and were thrilled to add horns onto our costumes,” Beth said.

Although many young kids fear this mythical creature, there were countless families in amazement at all the different takes on Krampus. Not only were adults dressed up, but kids were joining in on the fun by lightly hitting people’s feet with glittery sticks and chasing others around attempting to frighten those in attendance.

With Milwaukee residents coming together either as vendors, members or guests, it has created an honorary night to celebrate Krampus. Now as St. Nicholas day creeps upon the community, children of all ages are hopeful to hear the jingling of bells from St. Nicholas, rather than the clanking chains of Krampus.

This story was written by Lauren Puthoff. She can be reached at [email protected]