•October 1, 2015 • Comments Off on KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA VOICES: JANET FINEGAR (talking with béla levin-dorko)

i could write an intro here to give context for this interview but, um, janet has it all covered. we could just retitle this piece “janet cleans up everything” and it would be quite true, and we are quite grateful. more than grateful.

but the best clickbait i can come up with is: HEAR janet’s LEAST favorite moment of krampuslauf philadelphia EVER! when she said it i was SHOCKED!


a delighted béla gets janet to himself in august of 2015. he's an interviewer! (and she has been gardening, and looks, beautifully, of the earth.)

a delighted béla gets janet to himself in august of 2015. he’s an interviewer! (and she has been gardening, and looks, beautifully, of the earth.)


listen to the conversation as it is embedded below, or on soundcloud.


(transcript below)


BLD: My name’s Béla Levin-Dorko, and I’m here with Janet.

How did you first become with Krampuslauf?

JF: Well. Your mother – who, in my life is Krampus Amber – even though it’s been years now and we all know who Amber is, she’s still in my phone as Krampus Amber – Amber sent me an e mail message, and… this never happens, but I was actually sitting with my computer when the e mail message came in, and it said something like, “I am trying to organize this parade, that’s connected to an Alpine folkloric tradition called Krampus, and it’s gonna have puppets, and I want it to be really family friendly, and we drove past Liberty Lands and it seemed like the perfect place; is this the kind of thing that could happen?”

And I read that. And I wrote back an e mail that was like, “You… have written to the write person. I have a degree in folklore, and I love puppets, and I work with this theater company that loves doing big parades that involve a lot of community stuff and we really love getting people out on the street and doing things, and I have a kid and I love kids, and the park is really about kids and involving kids, so… absolut— I just looked at some pictures of Krampus, I’d never heard of this before, that’s crazy, I love it, let’s totally do this.” And I actually sent a little link to my partners who work at the park, that said, “Somebody just wrote me about doing a parade with” – and then a picture of one of the Krampusses – “with the Christmas Devil that looks like this. Can I please have a parade for the Christmas Devil at the Park?”

And my friends later wrote back and said “Of course you can, dear.”

But your MOM wrote back write away and said “Oh that’s so wonderful, here’s a picture of my two children with the Krampus teddy I knitted for them.” And a picture of you and Claudia – you were little and you had your stuffed Krampus – and I think what I wrote back was, “We will be friends. This will go well. You knit them a Krampus teddy; your kids are adorable.”


i bought my way into liberty lands with these little numbers!! who was going to say no? it was better than sending a picture of me!!!

i bought my way into liberty lands with these little numbers!! who was going to say no? it was better than sending a picture of me!!!


BLD: Before you got into Krampuslauf, did you ever do something that was like it?

JF: Well, because my theater company, the Bread and Puppet Theatre, does a lot of parades, and a lot of the puppets we make are sort of big and crazy and even sort of scary, I feel like I had done something like that before. So I kind of knew about making puppets, and I knew about looking sort of scary but not meaning to scare people so much as just communicate with people. So yeah. I have.

BLD: What’s your favorite part of Krampuslauf?

JF: I have a couple of favorite moments. And it’s funny, when you asked that, the first thing I thought of was my least favorite moments. But – my favorite moments –

I like running around with a mask on, and playing with people on the street. So when we make the corner at Second Street and Fairmount Avenue there’s a bar called 700, where a bunch of my friends often are that night, so I often get to play with my friends, and sometimes they don’t even know it’s me – until after a minute or two and they realize that they kinda know what my clothes look like and they know what I’m acting like. So I like that.

I like when the parade is over, and we’re all back at the park, and we’re watching the fire dancers, and there’s usually a moment of just kind of all hanging out together watching the fire dancers… and I really like that. Remember the year that it snowed and it was so so so so cold?

BLD: Yeah.

JF: That was the first year Tucker came – and there was a moment that year when neither you nor Claudia had enough clothes on – and I had the big bearskin?

BLD: Oh, yeah.

JF: And you were both on my lap, with the bearskin around you, and Tucker, I think, just wanted – I think there was a lot of crowd, and he was new to it, and I think he just wanted to be close to you guys? But he really didn’t know me, and so I realized that he was standing… as close to me as was possible without touching me. So I had like, your whole, younger family, right with me. At once. And that’s actually – that’s a moment that I really, really liked. I remember that.


janet and bearskin, keeping a barely coherent claudia alive at the end of lauf 2013. the blizzard lauf. that is indeed tucker in the backround. is béla buried in the snow?

janet and bearskin, keeping a barely coherent claudia alive at the end of lauf 2013. the blizzard lauf. that is indeed tucker in the backround. is béla buried in the snow?


BLD: Is that it?

JF: Those are my two favorite.

BLD: What’s your least favorite part?

JF: The very first one – when we had no real idea what we were doing – and then they did an interview with me that was just crazy and they played it on the radio that morning to the whole country. And your mom and I freaked out! Because we had no idea if it was gonna be like, twenty people like we thought it was, or there were gonna be eight thousand people… and if there were eight thousand people, what we were gonna do with them… and it had made it sound like we knew what we were doing and we didn’t, and so we were just… “terrified” isn’t even really the word. We were just freaked out. That was one of my least favorite moments.

I remember trying to – your mom sewed the beautiful Alpine backdrop, where we take the pictures in front of? And she brought it and it was so beautiful and she said, “And now we’re going to hang it on the pergola!” And… I could never have made that thing, and she wasn’t gonna hang it up. She handed it to me and said, “And now you hang it up!” and I thought, “I have no idea how I’m gonna hang this up… and eight thousand people are gonna come and it’s so beautiful and I want it to be beautiful” – and so – I stood on that ladder trying to figure out how to hang it up, thinking, “I’m not having as good a time as I thought I would.” That was one of my least favorite moments.

It was much better than I thought it was gonna be.

(She ended up stapling the backdrop to the pergola – ed.)

(To Béla) What’s your least favorite moment of Krampuslauf?

BLD: When I’m cold. Or when I’m walking and I’m so tired and I keep asking, “When is this thing over?”

JF: ‘Cause it always seems longer than you think it’s gonna be, doesn’t it?

BLD: Yeah.

JF: What’s your favorite part?

BLD: Getting hot chocolate.

JF: That’s a good part.

BLD: How long does it take you to clean up?

JF: I think it took the longest the first year ‘cause I didn’t know what I was doing. And I forgot that it was gonna be soooooo dark. So I didn’t have a flashlight, and I needed – I had to get the hose! We made a fire, and then there was a fire, which meant we had to put out the fire. So I had to get the hose, but I hadn’t gotten it out beforehand, and so I had to unlock the garden, where the hose was, but I didn’t have a flashlight, so I couldn’t get the garden open… that year, I think it took like —

BLD: — then how did you get it?

JF: I finally got the lock open. I think I used my phone. My phone didn’t have a flashlight on it like they do now – it was like a little phone. But I had just enough light that I could sorta figure out how to get the lock open!

BLD: Where did you get the password from?

JF: Oh, I always know it. ‘Cause it’s my park. I think last year, ‘cause I knew how to do it better, it maybe took half an hour. It was quick and easy.

BLD: Like, to put everything away?

JF: Mm-hmm. We do sort of just stuff everything in the back of the car, and then, in the next week or so, your mom and dad and I send each other e mails that say: “Did YOU bring home the Alpine backdrop?” “Yes! Is there any chance YOU have my sweater?” That kind of thing.

BLD: Do you always clean up everything, or do you like leave some things out, at the park?

JF: I pretty much clean up everything. Mostly because there’s usually a few people who are really enjoying hanging around the fire, and drinking cider and rum and talking to each other, and I really want them to go home. So – when I put the fire out, they usually go home. But I kinda clean everything up, thinking, “Maybe you’ll notice that it’s time to go home now!”… And people help. It’s not like I have to do it all myself.

BLD: Like Mommy.

JF: Yeah. And Dad. And Jonathan and Helen, from my family help. And Linda. You know, the obvious people.

BLD: What’s something that a person who’s new should keep in mind?

JF: That it’s FUN. People shouldn’t get all caught up in any kind of not-fun thing, like, “What’s the symbolism of this? Are you actually bringing the Devil up into here? Are you frightening the children? Are we being exactly like people would have been in Alpine countries when they did this kind of” – I mean there’s all kinds of serious stuff that people could say, and I don’t think what we do is anything like that. I think we’re just having a good time. Together! With our friends. Making cool art and showing it off.

BLD: Is there always at least somebody new?

JF: So far, yeah, there’s always at least a few people new. Last year, there were a few people who were my friends, who were new. Who came over to me to say, “… NOW what?” and I said “Well, you know… have a noisemaker! Have a mask! Walk around!”

BLD: Right. We had that big bucket.

JF: Yeah, the Share Box was such a good idea. That was really smart.

BLD: Where did we get the glow-up sticks? Was it last year?

JF: We’ve had glow sticks a bunch of times. But did we have them last year? Do you remember? You guys always bring really good glowing stuff. I’m always really distracted in December, so even though your mom and dad will have been talking about building stuff all year long, I feel like I’m always surprised. Your mom will look at me and say, “We’ve had eighty-five conversations about this moon, how do you not know the moon?” “But it’s beautiful! I had no idea!”…. The moon was a total surprise to me. I didn’t live in the house where it was being built.

BLD: Do you have any more questions for me?

JF: Well, now I wanna know what your advice would be to somebody who was new.

BLD: To not be scared.

JF: That’s good advice.

BLD: ‘Cause there’s all these big scary monsters running around all over the park. So that’s what I would say.

JF: I have another question for you if that’s okay.

BLD: That’s okay.

JF: What do you tell your friends about this? Like people at school who don’t know anything about it.

BLD: I say that we do a big event, that my mom and me, we make these huge masks… not that huge but, like it really can fit on my head. Sometimes we build around it. Like the one that I had, don’t you know, where it was tall, and I had big glowy eyes?

JF: Yeah, it was great.

BLD: That’s what I would pretty much say.

JF: Do you think your friends understand?

BLD: Nah.

JF: Yeah. That’s kind of what I think of my friends too.

BLD: Do you like bigger masks or smaller masks when it’s gonna be like either… on your head, do you like bigger ones or smaller ones? Or puppets?

JF: I like puppets better. But I always think I end up with a mask anyway because I get thinking about masks and then I wanna build one. Because once you start thinking about masks, you wanna build a mask!

BLD: True.

JF: Are you making a new one this year?

BLD: No, I’m wearing the one that Claudia wore last year.

JF: You’re wearing the baby Mädchen? Cooooool. What’s Claudia wearing?

BLD: Frau Perchta the White, she’s the sister but she’s nice and not mean. At the house, they’re working on Claude’s headpiece, I think.

JF: Yeah, she’s got a whole like, “the nice part of Krampus” thing going. She was an angel that first year… I like being a devil though.

BLD: Yeah, that’s my thing. My dream.

JF: It’s powerful.

BLD: True.

JF: Thank you for interviewing me. I’m really honored.

BLD: Thank you.

JF: You’re welcome.


somehow this interview was conducted WITHOUT mentioning The Bone Costume of 2011? well, our interviewer WAS barely three... i guess he does not remember that part.

somehow this interview was conducted WITHOUT mentioning The Bone Costume of 2011? well, our interviewer WAS barely three… i guess he does not remember that part.


•September 14, 2015 • Leave a Comment

claudia and ruby have both been to every krampuslauf philadelphia event that has ever happened! every workshop, every lauf. ruby’s mom, linda, is a driving force behind KP:POS and ruby’s dad seth was a VERY good sport in 2012 when we had the Not That Great But We Really Tried Krampus Backpack Puppet With Unbelievably Heavy Hands. when we have visiting artists come to town they almost always stay at ruby’s house, because it’s SUCH a great place to be.

in this interview, ruby talks to claudia levin-dorko, whose mom is a co-founder of krampuslauf philadelphia. claudia’s mom was amused during the transcribing of this interview to find that claudia pronounces “perchta” as it is spelled, regardless of how many times she has heard it said aloud, but does pretty good with “habergeiß” and “es meedli”. and ruby is a great interviewer with great questions!



listen to the conversation as it is embedded below, or on soundcloud.

(transcript below)

RS: Hi. I’m Ruby Soffer and this is Krampuslauf Philadelphia Voices. Today, I’m talking to Claudia Levin-Dorko.

How did you come to be involved with the Philadelphia Krampuslauf?

CLD: My mom was one of the organizers, and my dad was the first to dress up as Krampus.

RS: Did you know anything about Krampus before?

CLD: My mommy had knitted me and my little brother a Krampus doll.

RS: What did you think about the Krampus when you learned about it? Did you think it was scary or interesting?

CLD: No. I don’t remember since I was three.


claudia at the inaugural krampuslauf philadelphia in 2011. she was three years old.

claudia at the inaugural krampuslauf philadelphia in 2011. she was three years old.


RS: What is attending the event like for you? Has every year been different? What is the same?

CLD: The first two years have been fun, and the third year has been awesome… march on a cold, cold night, and getting to sit around the fire.

RS: What is your favorite thing about the lauf itself?

CLD: Getting to be in a costume.

RS: What is your least favorite thing?

CLD: The cold.

RS: How do you decide what your costume will be?

CLD: I either get to pick it out, or my mom decides what it will be. I wanted to be the angel, because it was the angel who protected people from Krampus.

RS: What is it like in your house the night before the Lauf?

CLD: Exciting, and a little bit nervous, too. Chris Carson makes it fun on the night before Krampuslauf by building a gigantic Habergeiß.

RS: What other projects are you working on the night before Krampus?

CLD: Maybe working on some other costumes, like Frau Perchta, or Es Meedli, or another Krampus costume for Béla (Claudia’s brother). The night before Krampuslauf, the gingerbread Krampusses get made.

RS: What was it like to have the Habergeiß created in your house?

CLD: A lot of movement, and… lots of stoves going on and off… and… lots of trying out.


"lots of stoves going on and off" : the day before thanksgiving, 2013. mom is in the kitchen making paté, tucker is at the back table making deviled eggs, and chris is building das mädchen using a propane camping stove.

“lots of stoves going on and off” : the day before thanksgiving, 2013. mom is in the kitchen making paté, tucker is at the back table making deviled eggs, and chris is building das mädchen using a propane camping stove.


RS: What was it like to be the baby Habergeiß (Es Meedli)?

CLD: Heavy on my back, and a little bit less weight, and also fun to walk in…. uh, a little bit embarrassing, and a little bit exciting.

RS: What are you planning to be this year for Krampuslauf?

CLD: I want to be Frau Perchta the White, who is the nicer Frau Perchta, and who is Frau Perchta’s sister. And I will have a little Krampus baby doll to carry around. And I’ll get to be with my mom for the walk. I usually like to be with Sam Rafferty (because) I don’t have to get yelled at, which I usually have to get yelled at if I’m doing something wrong with my mommy. (Up for interpretation – Ed.)

RS: What was it like to be on stage last year before the fire dancers came on?

CLD: A little bit shy and… confused…what I was doing? And mostly fun? I was using the poi, and the spinning plate, and the hula hoop. The fire dancers make me feel a little bit comfortable and uncomfortable, and every time they drop it I think something’s going to burn on fire.

RS: Will kids have another opportunity to participate in the performance this year?

CLD: Absolutely! We are going to be making, like fire pois that look like it’s real fire but it’s just fake fire. At a workshop in the cemetery. With the Lux Arati girls. In November.

RS: That sounds awesome.

CLD: Thank you for coming to Krampuslauf, everyone. Thank you, Ruby, for interviewing me.

RS: And thank you, Claudia, for answering my questions.

CLD: You’re welcome.

glowing with pride: claudia as "es meedli", daughter of das mädchen, in 2014. (béla will be es meedli in 2015; reserve now for 2016!) photo by neil kohl.

glowing with pride: claudia as “es meedli”, daughter of das mädchen, in 2014. (béla will be es meedli in 2015; reserve now for 2016!) photo by neil kohl.










mask workshop with LARRY HUNT of connecticut’s masque theatre, at bartram’s garden

•September 6, 2015 • Leave a Comment

during krampuslauf 2014, this amazing mask showed up — with the friend of the mom of one of our lux arati dancers.

burlap mask by deborah glassberg

burlap mask by deborah glassberg

i got in contact with her later and asked her about this technique. she had learned it from larry hunt of connecticut’s masque theatre. i got in touch with larry and it turned out he was one of these magical people of the type we keep running into in the krampuslauf philadelphia world — really laid back, happy to come to philly to teach people the technique, and, really, like all of our visiting artists so far, pretty amazing, even before we met him.

we are able to lure people here in part because we have a couple of core krampuslauf mamas who have amazing, warm, fascinating homes and are usually quite ready to open them to interesting new people. larry and his wife jennifer came to stay at linda’s place. we had dinner with them the night before and knew just from that experience that the workshop was going to be fantastic.


linda had ALSO gotten us into a new location! beautiful bartram’s garden. it was fun to have a new space to explore and we had a nice full house, with not just KP:POS friends and family but folks from the greater philadelphia area puppetry guild, and carnival de resistance, in attendance.

larry’s technique was fascinating.


we had a very generous pot luck lunch and while our masks dried some in the sun, larry did some improvisational performance for us.





while larry was between characters, he told an anecdote that made some of us go “WHOA.” i asked him to elaborate in an email later:

“I was at a conference in Turku, Finland.  The scholars were investigating Northern Scandinavian Mask Rituals from previous eras.  18-19th centuries approximately, maybe even before.

These winter celebrations had many elements.  Group participation in the winter which also gave them something to do.  Some areas had myths they would revisit in physical form.  Disguise and discovery and rebirth elements.  Most, if not all of the celebrations, were adult oriented including high schoolers as adults.  Disguise was a key element and unveiling of the mysteries was keen.  Food and drink were always involved.

However, times changed.  I think with the advent of electricity, radio and then television with movies, the winter celebrations were usurped. Slowly, not overnight.
Some became quite cliquish in that only certain districts of a town involved the celebrations.
To keep the traditions somewhat alive, they evolved into children’s celebrations and school parties and the evening aspects dissipated.  Our Halloween became quite a popular substitution but the characters became store bought Spiderman types instead of local hand made myths or legends.  So the rituals, which took much time to prepare for, became easily accessible for a few pence and virtually no effort.  Thus when rituals become childrens’ celebrations, the intent of the original times changed with much less community involvement.  One disguise element was a sort of passing of the baton.  High schoolers would impersonate even local people and later, as adults, they would be impersonated and have to do the guessing.
At least that was my take on the discussions which covered a vast area and not limited to Northern Scandinavian countries.”
THAT is food for thought.
back to the workshop. things were drying! then there was embellishing!


we really hope that larry and jennifer come back to philly for krampuslauf!

here is the whole photo set on flickr.

and, because linda did so much to make this happen — this graphic, courtesy of jen!


(and, to be honest, jen is pretty much on the hook to make her krampus s’mores bites this december, maybe to have at the welcome center for krampuslauf…?)


KP:POS at the EverNever Night Market

•August 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment
the KP:POS night market crew, minus tuck, who was beating the shit out of a microwave with a crowbar. photo by steve schultz.

the KP:POS night market crew, minus tuck, who was beating the shit out of a microwave with a crowbar. photo by steve schultz.


did you ever hear of the everNever night market? i hadn’t, but my friend amani told me about it when she heard it was coming to philly; she thought a krampuslauf philadelphia-sponsored mask making truck would be a good thing to have there.

here’s why i really wanted to apply: i loved hearing that the founder of the event didn’t care whether people had a good time at it or not.

“Not that I don’t care about your experience. I am really glad you enjoyed it. But that has never been the focus of Lost Horizon Night Market. It’s always been about giving.

It’s about giving people a forum to try: to do something that has been an idea but never had the space to grow.

It’s about giving people an excuse to connect through a common goal: to pull together a bunch of people and come out at the end better people and tighter friends.

It’s about people sharing a secret: reaching out to those who you know live for this, or need a new way to look at life.”

that’s very much our line of thinking at KP:POS. so we put in a proposal, and we got a space.


linda and ruby made some wonderful signage to get people thinking about why they might want to make masks. not just for coming to krampuslauf. but for themselves.



we ended up with a VERY busy truck. and it was HOT in there. we had brought a lot of finished masks as examples of the foil and tape technique, and we gave some away — you can’t hold on to everything. we were happy to meet friends from carnivale de resistance finally, and we all got an opportunity to go participate in the other trucks. some of the best moments went unrecorded by iPhone cameras; tucker’s experience in the smash truck, though, was documented by the sketch reporter.

i had a very good fortune-telling by tasker morris dressed as a penis, and he told me i would continue to make masks and help other people to make masks, but i had yet to make my greatest mask — which was very large, and which would SPIN.

i have to say though that i was totally starstruck at meeting needles jones. what made me really, really happy is that me being starstruck by meeting needles, made needles happy too!!



krampuslauf philadelphia has become so, so much more than just krampus. or just december. it really is taking on it’s own life, this parade of spirits.

here is the entire album of photographs from the everNevernight market.



it was the holiday season of 2010 when i first saw the word, or image, that represented krampus. it was either on a vintage postcard at a friend’s apartment, or on a homebrew beer label designed by james mundie. those two things might have even happened on the same day.

but i started searching around for this krampus thing and saw that this “arun” guy in oregon was trying to have an… event. i lurked; his event started out at an A-space and seemed like perhaps a dress-up dance party that would then turn into a flogging session, but then they had trouble procuring the space, or something, and i watched this arun fellow drumming up support and i was just not sure it was going as well as he wanted it to. again, i hadn’t even friended him or tried to communicate, so it was hard to tell.

but i had started to knit for him. i was knitting claudia and béla a krampus doll, as i had fallen in love with the idea of this krampus character; i decided to knit one for arun, too, and mail it to him.



that krampus doll went on portland’s inaugural lauf in 2010, and arun has been my absolute go-to guy for all bitching, worrying, and great ideas since then. he held my hand through philly’s first lauf and the subsequent ones. in the spring of 2014, he came to the east coast, and held a maskmaking workshop with krampuslauf philly family at germantown’s iMPeRFeCT Gallery. and in 2014, he was there, with us, at krampuslauf philadelphia, standing on a table and singing portland’s signature krampus carol, after our invocation. it was truly the happy ever after of the internet.


it's 2014 and we are laufing together!

it’s 2014 and we are laufing together!


after a year and a half on the east coast, arun has gone back to portland, where he will continue leading krampus lauf PDX. this “interview” — done without the need of much prompting — was recorded shortly after he returned home. it is amazing how he went from years of being just an online person, to someone whose shoes, papers, and other belongings sometimes just surface in our house. he is now back to being so far away. he is like an uncle to my children, and he is definitely the person who made krampuslauf philadelphia possible. not only that, he is THE person who has kept the spirit of creative interchange and goodwill between “sister laufs” like no one else we have interacted with. and as he muses here, he reflects many of the issues and possible solutions we are discussing for krampuslauf philadelphia, when it comes to “mindful community scaling” and seeing new events grow out of a core event.

listen to the “conversation” as it is embedded below, or on soundcloud.



(transcript below) (note how good the sound quality is — that’s the difference between using voice memo and having to use the phone software!)

Hello, this is Arun Joseph Ragan in Portland Oregon, and I am currently wandering through Lone Fir
cemetery, and pondering some of the similarities and differences between the Portland and Philadelphia Krampuslauf. I mention my location just because one of my reasons for being here, apart from it being my cloistered contemplation walk, is that the trees here drop some very fun plant material that I love to use in masks; they are these furry little tendrily things that are very delicate but they’re really great for the furrier facial features of some of the masks — whiskers and antennae and such — very expressive — and they tend not to last more than one march — however that’s fine. I really treat these things as prayer flags, with them being transient, they are seasonal after all, so the idea of them being destroyed along with the rest of nature every year is fitting. And also, there are little spines and burrs that fall from the trees that make up other features, fangs and claws and such. And a lot of the ideas for masks can just come from what comes across my path as I’m wondering around and thinking and gathering things.
Of course the main thing here that I gather is the birch switches that I use to make the floggers for Krampus. There’s a tree here that I visit every year, and during autumn and winter the birch switches fall and those I gather, and make into a lot of different things, but especially the floggers of course as is traditional.


the Portland Oregon Krampus Lauf, 2011. Photograph by ... Cordova

the Portland Oregon Krampus Lauf, 2011. Photograph by Jacob Cordova


So I’ve been walking… and trying to think of the theme of the connection between the two events. I think the first and main thing that comes to mind, from my point of view, I guess as a visitor to Philadelphia, was that the experience was completely transformed by the fact that I was able to participate in the culture. There was an opportunity, because of Amber’s friendship with the lovely folks at Imperfect Gallery, that I was able to share a maskmaking workshop there, and also hang some of my creations there, and that’s kind of the key for really feeling at home somewhere, or really feeling that I’m living as opposed to merely surviving somewhere, is that I’m able to participate creatively, and that’s really the key in this holiday of Krampusnacht, to transform my experience of the winter season, the Christmas season, was that it was something I was alienated from beforehand, and was either ignoring it, or was just being another one of the people who doesn’t feel so much connection or actually has a negative connection to the holiday, and so could be negative about it or just trying to like, get through it, but suddenly when I actually found something that aroused my interest and creativity and inspiration, and I was able to then MAKE something happen, it completely changed it, and just made it my favorite time of year. Similarly, coming to Philadelphia and being able to experience the culture there from the point of view of friends and family that have come together through the Krampuslauf made an enormous difference. And that I saw when I actually attended the Krampusnacht event itself, I did find that, the extent to which people were engaged in making their own costumes and creating the event rather than just attending the event and wanting others to make it for them — I definitely found that kinship between the two (the Portland and Philadelphia events — ed), that it definitely was an event that was participant-generated — although there’s definitely people that work all year to coordinate aspects of it, there’s also the sense that people were themselves creating their experience. And that’s always a good thing, I always feel vitalized by an event that everyone’s participating in.
It’s (Krampuslauf Philadelphia) a little bit bigger and more developed (than Portland’s Lauf) in the sense of actually having Liberty Lands; it’s a wonderful resource to have a space that is openly welcoming and hosting the event. It does allow for more things to happen; the wonderful fire performances and such that were going on that were made possible by that. We generally (in Portland) just kind of have do-it-yourself, do-it-as-spontaneous-seeming-as-possible, I guess you could say, even though we’re working on masks and things throughout the year, particularly closer to the event; just meeting some people in the park and marching from there down the sidewalks and back seems to have been a formula that works so far and we haven’t grown to the point that it’s been problematic so we’ve just been keeping it like that but who knows this year? Lots of new ideas are already happening and so it’s entirely possible that it’s going to start taking on new forms, although most likely it’s just going to hive off into other little modular events, with different line-ups of people and different focuses for each of the different events, rather than becoming one big event that requires more hosting and such. I imagine it’s just going to kind of splinter into the groups that are more focused on the more seasonal ritual and folk aspect of it, and others might be more attracted to the big party and bar crawl aspect, which we haven’t really done too much of, but some people really want to, and then if we were to go into something that’s performative or whatever, generally I imagine that the people who want to do that do that, rather than it all happening in the context of a big unified event. But it is nice when there is a little bit of everything.
I think the people who get attracted to these events and then network and find other ways to explore it and experience it in other times of year are important. It was nice actually when I visited Philadelphia the first time during the mask-making workshop to actually meet the people who I would then actually be able to march with half a year later when I came back for the Lauf and it’s always wonderful to see who gets called by these ideas and how it permeates their lives in other ways too. So that was a treat.


getting to know Arun better at his maskmaking workshop in Philly, April of 2014.

getting to know Arun better at his maskmaking workshop in Philly, April of 2014.


When I think about the sudden, ever-mounting increase in exposure that the idea of having a Krampuslauf or some type of a Krampus celebration, the momentum that’s been catching on behind that idea in the States — there was a time when I kind of cringed a little bit because things tend to kind of get big and ugly quickly, and signal turns to noise quite easily, and that’s kind of been delightfully dispelled, any misgivings I might have had about that, because of the fact that each area is going to support its own microculture, it’s going to support its own version of things, and the feeling that we are going for in Portland kind of grows out of the local folk ecology and so it’s gonna get as big and have the flavor that the area will support – similar with what I noticed in Philadelphia — it definitely had its own flavor, and really felt like the people that were showing up for it are doing it in their own way, it’s not just becoming this big anonymous thing that catches on and explodes and then disappears. So a lot of my worries about that, of what that was eventually going to look like, whether that was going to take away this thing that we loved or not, that’s kind of been dispelled, fortunately. It’s simply going to take the form that it’s going to take, and people will participate in their own way.
I decided instead of making like policies or rules or signs or things like that, that don’t tend to work anyway and kind of are counter to the spirit of the event, the more of those that show up, the more it kind of stifles the feeling, but at the same time I kind of want the idea of an unlicensed parade of people in costumes marching down the sidewalk to involve as few incidents and injuries of the unplanned sort as possible. So to kind of tilt things in the direction of people kind of knowing — enough people knowing what’s going on that it kind of just makes it so it appears to be organically self-directing and self-governing and self-aware once it becomes a crowd, trying to get people kind of trained through experience in being part of these other processions such as the Autumn Equinox procession and getting a little core group of motivated people who have more experience then so that even if we do get a sudden flood of newcomers to the Krampuslauf event that there will be enough people that know to be the Rear Guard and how to communicate back and forth in the Procession so it doesn’t get all separated or people don’t end up getting strewn all over the place or there isn’t any problem in crossing sidewalks and streets and such as that, and people kind of know how to interact with the public without causing too many problems.

I’m just going to pursue it organically, see what events want to happen, see when inspiration really strikes in such a way that it gathers people. ‘Cause if it doesn’t want to happen it’s not gonna happen. I’ve definitely found this before. You can have a great idea and then if no one shows up to it, maybe it’s an idea that needs to happen at a different time and in a different way.


•June 14, 2015 • Comments Off on KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA VOICES: SAM MOON RAFFERTY (talking with ben levin)

imagine my horror upon arriving home from our first krampuslauf philadelphia in 2011 to find that a family we’d never met had driven to philly FROM STATEN ISLAND, and had gotten there too late for lauf and MISSED it.

oh god oh god oh god. i immediately packed up a bunch of stuff we had made at our maker workshop, and every little krampus gewgaw i could find, in apology.

it worked! they came back again! and again! they drove in a blizzard to get to us and almost died! and they came back AGAIN!

and we have done SO many things with sam moon rafferty and her family in between all the krampuslaufs we have had. we have seen charles dickens’ taxidermied crow! we have seen the brood two cicada invasion of staten island! sam and her daughter have driven FROM STATEN ISLAND to come to the kids’ circus camp shows!

they are our family now. it was just that easy!

here is sam, talking to ben. make no mistake, she tries to end this interview by saying “i can’t take any more questions, i have to go nurse a possum.”

listen to the conversation as it is embedded below, or on soundcloud.

(transcript below)


sam and her sons anthony and dainan, krampuslauf philadelphia 2013. photo by neil kohl.

sam and her sons anthony and dainan, krampuslauf philadelphia 2013. photo by neil kohl.


BL: So I’m Ben Levin, and I’m talking with Sam Rafferty, and welcome!

SR: Hi. Thank you.

BL: So let me start off with a simple question: How long have you been attending Krampuslauf Philadelphia?

SR: Well, technically I’ve been to all of them, but the first time we got stuck in traffic and got there so late that we missed it, so we were at Liberty Lands but no one was there. So I’ve been there, with actual people there, since the second one.

BL: And what do you view as your personal role at Krampuslauf Philadelphia?

SR: I have somehow adopted the role of leading Claudia (Ben and Amber’s daughter) around… though I think she leads me.

BL: Do you dress up, do you take pictures?

SR: Krampuslauf has amazing, amazing artists so it actually can be a little bit intimidating ‘cause I’m more of a costume assembler than a costume maker. But I do come in some kind of costume. It’s not a lot, but, some horns – I have a skeleton that I’ve turned into a Krampus skeleton that I wear on my back… I bring my kids, they wear horns, my son plays the drum in the procession.

BL: What were your worst expectations, going into it?

SR: I have a long history of doing zombie crawls, and I’ve watched zombie crawls very slowly turn from a family-friendly, monster-loving event, to bar crawls – with the equivalent of frat boys and monster makeup. And that was my fear going to Krampuslauf, that it was going to really, you know, kinda be like a drinking party, and… juvenile. But it was so much more incredible than I even anticipated. It’s magic, it really is.


"can i please walk with you? my mom just yells at me at krampuslauf," my daughter asked sam some years ago. (my daughter misremembers; it was the sinterklaas rhinebeck festival where i yelled at her.) sam is claudia's official consort at krampuslauf philly!

“can i please walk with you? my mom just yells at me at krampuslauf,” my daughter asked sam some years ago. (my daughter misremembers; it was the sinterklaas rhinebeck festival where i yelled at her.) sam is claudia’s official consort at krampuslauf philly!


BL: What were your highest, best expectations for the event?

SR: Before I went, I was just hoping it would be friendly and you know, people would be into the story of Krampus and know as much about Krampus as I did, but as it turns out, I didn’t know nearly enough about Krampus! In my circle, I was kinda the only Krampus-celebrator, so I seemed to have all the knowledge, but then I met you guys. And I realized I knew very little.

BL: What was one of the things you remember learning first that was a surprise to you?

SR: I think all of the other characters that show up at the Lauf, representing different folklore.

BL: What for you was the most memorable moment of attending Krampuslauf Philadelphia?

SR: The year before last, my son who lives in Florida actually flew in to be able to attend with us. And we got there, and it started to snow. And anything I’d ever seen before Krampuslauf in America, anything I’d ever seen of Krampuslauf was in Austria, where it’s usually snowy and cold. And we got out of the car, and it was snowing, and the costumes were lit up, and there was a fire going, and it was – it was just unbelievably breathtaking. It felt like you were in Austria. It was beautiful. That was my definite favorite moment.

BL: For you, Krampuslauf Philadelphia will always…

SR: … be something I look forward to, and love to attend.

BL: Krampuslauf Philadelphia will never…

SR: … be a bar crawl.

BL: Is there anything else about the event that you think is really important for people to know, that is something that you don’t think other people would necessarily notice at first?

SR: I think it’s important for people to realize that it is a family-friendly event. You know, people see horns and immediately assume it’s too scary for the children. But there’s a lot of kids. And like I said the costumes can be intimidating to people that aren’t artists – that aren’t able to pull that amazing stuff together – but people are so friendly, and so willing to share things, and share ideas… it really is, a little family. Or a bigger and bigger family, as every year passes, actually.

BL: Is there anything else you want to add?

SR: No, I can’t take any more questions, I have to nurse a possum…. Oh, that’s something I should have added. Is that we really have a Krampuslauf family with you guys.

BL: That’s what it’s all about.

SR: Yeah. That first year, I knew it was gonna be good, that year that we missed it. You and Amber sent us a package of stuff, and we hadn’t even met each other in person yet, and I said, “These are good people.”


sam took one of THE best krampuslauf photos of all time -- and it was used for our gallery retrospective postcard in january 2014!

sam took one of THE best krampuslauf photos of all time — and it was used for our gallery retrospective postcard in january 2014!



•June 13, 2015 • Comments Off on KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA VOICES: STEVE SCHULTZ (talking with ben levin)

steve is a seasoned krampuslauf dad, and someone we’ve counted on for great photographs of krampuslauf philadelphia since year one. he shoots a lot of costume events and we were so lucky to have him come and shoot the historic asperger’s are us comedy show at drexel university earlier this spring! check out his work under the Artis De Fiance profile on facebook.

listen to the conversation as it is embedded below, or on soundcloud.

(transcript below)

BL: I’m Ben Levin, I’ve been involved with Krampuslauf since the beginning, here in Philadelphia anyway, and I’m talking with Steve Schultz. Welcome.

SS: Thank you for having me.

BL: Great. Let me start off with one question that should be pretty easy: how long have you been attending Krampuslauf Philadelphia?

SS: I’ve missed one year, and I think I’ve been three years running.

BL: What do you see as your role there, at Krampuslauf?

SS: I’m a photographer, and I like to document the individuals and the creative spirit of the event.

BL: What were your best expectations of the event before you started to go?

SS: I’m an event photographer, and I concentrate on costume-themed events. So my best expectations were to be able to have a good time, bring my wife and daughter, and see some amazing costumes and be able to document them, and deal with the challenges of limited light.

BL: And how did that all pan out?

SS: It turned out very well. The costumes were indicative of the spirit and creativity of the people who attended, and I was able to get some images that I’m very proud of. And, even though every time it’s been dark, I’ve been able to bring lighting or use my own lighting.

BL: What about your worst expectations. Were there any that fall into that camp?

SS: I was concerned about having a costume-themed event, especially something that might be polarizing, with demons and that kind of thing, in a larger environment, because you never know whose going to be insulted or upset by something that doesn’t tie into their personal philosophy, that kind of thing.
BL: How did you think that might affect you, if something like that happened?

SS: Well, I’ve been to events that involve mythical-themed costumes, such as Faerie Fest, that are protested by church groups.

BL: And what does that do to your role at those events?

SS: It just creates conflict; it makes people a little bit more testy, it makes people less willing to showcase their creativity, and to let the costume dictate the personality at the event.


photographer steve schultz.

photographer steve schultz.


BL: What for you is the most memorable moment of attending Krampuslauf Philadelphia?

SS: Well the Lauf is wonderful, and it’s a great event but really the best time for me is spending time with my wife and daughter there. I do get some great images and meet some wonderful people, but when my wife and daughter are enjoying themselves and getting all involved, ringing their bells and wearing their masks and shaking their puppets, I really enjoy that.

BL: How old was your daughter at the first Krampuslauf she attended?

SS: I think she was two.

BL: What did she think?

SS: Well, she didn’t talk a lot, but she sure enjoyed it.

BL: What did you think? Did you have any concerns or thoughts going into that, about bringing your daughter at that age?

SS: Actually not. We took our daughter to a lot of events and we just made sure that she was warm enough, and the people were certainly friendly enough; I had no concerns about bringing Zoe at all.


krampuslauf philadelphia, 2011. photo by steve schultz.

krampuslauf philadelphia, 2011. photo by steve schultz.


krampuslauf philadelphia, 2014. photo by steve schultz.

krampuslauf philadelphia, 2014. photo by steve schultz.


BL: You’ve talked about your experience as a photographer and at these costume-themed events; is there anyone about this one that is different, that you just sort of prepare yourself for?

SS: Well yes. It’s cold. But other than that, I know that when people put on a costume, they’re actually taking off layers of conformity. And what I look for when I go to a costume-themed event, and this one in particular, is the opportunity to see people when they’ve dropped their guard, and they’ve revealed themselves more by concealing themselves in costume. And that’s for me what happens, and that’s why I bring my camera; I like seeing people being open and free to not put on airs and not to conform to a day-to-day culture or to a corporate culture.

BL: That’s really interesting. You’re sort of back and forth and all over the event throughout it, do you have a chance to see, people I guess, before and after? And sort of compare the two?

SS: Yeah, I do. You see people walking in, and people who aren’t experienced with the event, sometimes come in and they’re looking around and they’re not sure what they’re gonna see; by the time they leave, they’re all smiling and happy. I think probably the warmest place, both interpersonally and physically, is of course by the fire. When people sit around by the fire or stand around by the fire, and they talk and they share a cup of hot cider, they seem to be the most – you know, taking the time to get to know each other. But then there’s also the walking around, and the marching, and people are walking side by side as individuals – I think that it’s the same way down by the stage, people are shoulder to shoulder and are looking out at something, when they interact at the fire, that’s when they’re the warmest.

BL: Well fantastic! Thank you so much for taking the time, and we hope to see you there this winter.

SS: Thanks for having me.


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