the family tree of krampus

when winter comes, krampus is not the ONLY guy out there worth worrying about. as our event continues to evolve and come closer, i’ve learned more about krampus’ family members, and have come to find a few particularly appealing.

i really REALLY like buttnmandl. a LOT. in fact, as i sit knitting my second “krampus” mask, i’m PRETTY sure i’m going to make a case to its intended wearer that he go full buttnmandl. you see how well buttnmandl and krampus function together. and smudging people with ash? i like that too!

but for myself, i’m thinking of a — totally personalized and not terribly traditional, mind you — perchta costume.

lots of perchten look almost indistinguishable from krampus. but then, i saw these:

those are perchten too. first of all, they really remind me of korean mask dance figures, which i’ve already enjoyed knitting. (obviously, i am always looking for excuses to knit costumes or knit for public processions.) and then, the wonderful details about her just started adding up. she punishes girls who have not finished spinning their flax and wool — by eviscerating them? she carries a golden drop spindle? she has a giant SPLAY-foot from treadling? … i hardly have to dress up for this at all — i AM perchta!

the more i read, the closer to perchta i felt. and then, the final, amazing coincidence; i read that in some regions, perchten are decorated with small pieces of mirror… and literally HOURS beforehand i had linked, ON the krampus makers group on facebook, to a tutorial about shisha stitching — the stitching of small mirrors on to cloth.

in general it has been remarked that i lead an life of unusual synchronicity, but come on. FATE!

… and so, in chatting with janet today, she suggested that we make sure that our krampuslauf was open to all other menacing figures of folklore — not just those direct relatives of krampus, but golem, kali… i myself thought of the korean 구미호… all are welcome.

our expectations of what the event itself will be like continue to morph, and are now leaning towards less of a divided audience/performers dynamic to a more communal, more organic — folkier!– event. here’s the latest breakdown:

we hope to parade at 4pm, meeting in liberty lands beforehand. the procession will be lead by costumed revelers, and we hope also to have costume accessories and percussion instruments on-hand for anyone who wants to join at the last minute. (these are actually amassing in my basement right now.)

after processing for as long as it amuses us and others, participants will return to liberty lands, socialize by the (almost certain to be ready!) firepit, and disperse at their leisure.

it is still my plan to make an “alpine” backdrop to drape over one of the ends of the wisteria pergola, so that revelers can have their photo taken with krampus or one of his colleagues. (and i have an artist in mind with whom i would like to work on that, thinking now that it will not just be a painted cloth, but perhaps something more textural.)

for those crafters and makers who were interested in the idea of the krampus christmas market, as the idea had been to do at the passyunk avenue location in our earlier plan — i’m not sure this is entirely out of the question, and will have an update on that soon as well.

i am more excited every day. i love being able to focus on the parts that interest me most and that i am best at, and having the feeling that the event was able to find a really perfect location and a very open community. i am enjoying meeting new people and new artists and working on projects with friends…

and i’m so, SO excited to have my children be a part of this event. in talking to janet today, she said she is experiencing, as i do, about a fifty-fifty split between “this is such a cool idea!” and “isn’t that sort of… bad/wrong/scary?” … the answer to that question of course is a very personal one and the last thing i ever want to do is talk anybody INTO appreciating krampus and his kin when it is against their nature or even beliefs to do so. but i do have something to say, formally, about why i think this event — and those like it — is a good thing for children, and teaches cultural tolerance, as well as establishes trust in community.

but it’s not for a blog post! and the reason it’s not for a blog post is because my column for korean quarterly is due in two weeks, and for this installment of my column (which i’ve been writing since before either of our children were born) i’m going to write in depth about the good that i believe events like this can do. i know i am not the only mother of a multicultural household that will be participating in this event, and i really believe that its historical and ethical value is real. so, when it’s time to get serious, i’ll add a link to a PDF of the printed piece here.


  1. Yay! I was just thinking that it would be good/cool/kinda funny to have a thought-out written response about what’s healthy and natural about recognizing, even embracing, the evil in life. And look, you’re already writing it.

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