we’re a month away, and here’s what i expect.

Inspiration may be a form of superconsciousness, or perhaps of subconsciousness – I wouldn’t know. But I am sure it is the antithesis of self- consciousness.
~Aaron Copland

a month from today, at four PM, we will have our krampuslauf at liberty lands!

i am so happy and excited about seeing that happen. about being part of it! about seeing my children participate in it.

but i have to be honest. if it never actually happened — if we had a blizzard and couldn’t get a snow date, or if there was an earthquake or an alien invasion or whatever else could keep it from happening, happened instead — i would still be so happy with everything that HAS happened, that the whole thing would still have been a success to me. more than worth it — there’s literally been not a single “drawback” or sacrifice to any of the planning. i’ve loved every step. sure, we’ve spent a lot out of pocket, and i’m aware that “having a krampuslauf in philadelphia” has taken the place of many gifts under the tree for me this year and i am HAPPY about that. this is BETTER. even when “it” hasn’t happened yet, this is better.

when i think of everything i have gained from this experience, i am just humbled.

i’m so fond of arun, and i’ve been so happy to meet janet and sue and the other liberty lands folks. you’d think that, if you go into the public sector shouting “i’m the mother of two preschoolers and i want to have an evil goat-man celebration for christmas, who wants to help me?” that you would get a few nutters. (and you would be right about that.) but in the final analysis, our family has come out so far ahead personally.

i am so happy that my friend lori has spent so much time with me, and her kids with my kids. lori and i went to high school “together” but i don’t think we ever said a word to each other there. but, through the magic of facebook — and krampus — i have been having a great time with her.

and liberty lands itself! having that park in our lives has already created great memories for ben and i and for our kids. helping to build the bonfire pit — doing korean drumming — participating in the fall festival, visiting maesha the hairless cat, and having countless delicious meals on liberty walk… none of it served as a means to an end, even though we were always there to move things a step closer to december 10. it was always a great time in and of itself! (well, maybe not boiling all the rib bones. that was not so great. just ask ben.)

all this community-building was not even all that we gained. as a needleworker and maker, i found myself working, out of necessity, with brand new materials. i was embroidering, sewing on the machine, making doughs, drawing puppet templates, experimenting with kombucha “mother” and seaweed, and “forcing” my kids to make the exemplars for all of our krampus-related crafts. this weekend, i’ll add screenprinting to the list of things i’ve tried just because of the krampuslauf philadelphia endeavor. the knitted mask-making and hat making that i did for the krampuslauf offered me an opportunity to submit work to my first juried textile show. the opportunities to be creative — in my chosen, well-known ways as well as new ones — have been limitless.

and i’ve written about krampus. no fiction, but ruminations on folklore and fear and uses of tradition, particularly in relation to children. some of these ruminations made their way into my korean quarterly column (published in the fall 2011 issue), and will also will be featured as an article in inCultureParent magazine this november/december (with, as well, a krampus craft.) i’ve come to understand more than ever what, other than the aesthetic pleasure of krampus, he means to me. how opening my eyes to the ethnic birth cultures of my children has helped open my eyes to cultures with which i have NO “connection”… and how many rituals and figures — like krampus — appear almost universally, as though by a collective unconscious. it’s just fascinating.

but i think one of the things that draws me most to the krampus tradition is the wide range of experiences available — from high-end, headbanging, pyrotechnical displays available to anyone with the disposable income for all those prosthetics, to the most humble DIY efforts:

and it’s all okay.

i love the nature of public procession as well, and how it weeds out the exact people who can’t understand or accept its inherent magic. i mean, there are people who watch, and there are people who participate, and both are necessary, and, in my mind, anyone should be allowed to shift back and forth between roles as often as they please. but, for all those people (and hey, i love some of them!) who have to ask, “well, i just don’t GET it — i mean, what’s it ABOUT — i’m trying to UNDERSTAND –” i think there is a disconnect in our culture that needs to be remedied. and i think one step towards that would be re-introducing the idea that “we are together. we are wearing unusual things! banners are waving. let’s walk from here… to here! and back! and bang on stuff!” is actually… FUN. and important.

and that is what i expect to see happen. i don’t want hundreds of people at this event, unless those are hundreds of excited, involved, or at least curious, people. i will be happy with ten people. watch all the krampus/perchten/buttmandl videos you can find on youtube. krampuslauf isn’t mardi gras, and it’s not the mummers’ parade. it can be small, halting (probably hard to see in a lot of cases!), and… just natural. it is a reclamation of our humanity and community. i really feel that. even if it sounds ridiculous. what’s ridiculous to me is that our nation’s secular hero of christmas was designed by the coca-cola corporation. i want more for my children’s memories, and krampuslauf philadelphia is part of that “more”.

my children know they are safe from the devil of christmas, even when he cavorts in front of them. i also want them to know that the best events are often not the ones that the city paper and philadelphia weekly tell you are the ones to go to. that they never have to be the people who wait until they are sure five other “cool” people are going to a thing before they commit to it themselves. that they are not kids who cross their arms and dare the world to amuse them, or wait for explicit permission to be interested in a ritual, an event, a culture, that has “nothing to do” with them.

even if i never see the face under your mask, i hope to see you a month from today, at liberty lands!