krampuslauf: where everyone’s a visionary

i spent quite a few posts last year writing about why i believed krampuslauf was important for my children, and all our children. now i wish to write about why it’s important for me — and why it might be for you.

in many ways, when i started krampuslauf philadelphia, Everything Started To Come Together; the way people say happens when they start meditating, or have a particular metaphysical experience. before krampuslauf, i had been a writer, and a knitter, and a mom, and that was all good. i was not particularly social, and did not organize social events; i did like wearing costumes (a long volunteer stint with the opera company of philadelphia as an onstage extra gave me the taste for that) but i did not think of “pageantry” or “ritual” or really even “community” as personal buzzwords or anything i had any building blocks for, much less a blueprint for how to use them.

not only did this event make me see how important those things — ritual, pageantry, and community — were to me, krampuslauf opened the clearest path i had ever experienced to all of them. i began to see a new, internal identity for myself; frau perchta, the belly-slitter, the crone — a persona that could be honed not in spite of advancing age, but as a great compliment to it. it wasn’t that i decided to feel that way about the event — i felt it happening. not just in december, but all year. and i loved it. i was making the rules on my own, and knew that in december, i wouldn’t be “dressing up” so much as showing how this new/old part of me had developed — and showing it to a community that was not the place i lived, or even the people i spent much time with the rest of the year — but a community nonetheless. a fleeting, important, renewable, interactive community.

at a time in my life when i thought i knew exactly who i was and what i had, and figured i’d just spend my time working on those few pre-defined things forever, i found something entirely untouched in myself, and saw that it was full of energy.

and the idea of tapping deeply into the idea of community ritual in a way that offered none of the obvious contemporary rewards — it will NOT be the event of the year, the cool people will NOT be there, just cold and monsters, actually — and maybe cookies — created in me a tremendous sense of vulnerability. but with every atom of that vulnerability, was a new sense of power. not over others, but over my understanding of those very things that i thought had had nothing to do with my identity, but which now, i saw, absolutely did. all that, AFTER 40? oh yes.

2012 seems that this is the year that the krampus merchandising has gone into full swing; krampus stockings, sweaters, cards, wrapping paper. more villages are holding their own krampus celebrations, hopefully, all different and reflective of, if not the residents of the town in which it is held, those who travel there to help create the event. in some cases, people will always do whatever is popular, or tongue-in-cheek popular, or faux-tongue-in-cheek popular; that’s just the nature of people. but i think at the heart of it people might be acknowledging the need for a moment for the anxious, the doubtful, the dark, that everyone is so encouraged to stuff down in december.

“I’d probably be the first on line to participate if America ever took the stick out of its ass and decided to do this,” a young woman posted on tumblr recently. guess she’s not from portland OR, or philly, or seattle, or salem, or ypsilanti…

our family’s travel plans for this year and next all center around festal culture and community rituals in other cities and states, maybe even countries. we just got back from our second year at sinterklaas rhinebeck and we volunteered for the parade this year; we like to see the way other people do things. we learn a lot at rhinebeck, and had some big talks with the kids about the difference between watching something fun, and MAKING it fun for other people.

we like to go to the party that is not a “party” created by media analysts, with celebrity hosts, and an attempt to get you to try a new brand of flavored vodka. we like the modest affair where everyone’s a visionary: where what the individuals bring to it shapes the event, and where you don’t have to be pretty, popular, happy, or even sure of what’s going on — to have a worthwhile experience. and to contribute to a worthwhile experience. because i truly feel there’s a place for everybody here. of course, there should be a place for everybody everywhere, but maybe for this time and place, and with these lanterns and costumes and puppets, this is the place where i can help make it happen, for a little bit of time.

i do a lot of prep for this event, and sometimes i feel tired, but then i realize… if i gave this up, i’d be doing the exact same things (knitting, sewing, making things), just for a purpose that wasn’t as communal. and why would i do that?

and when i do feel tired, i’ll always just get some amazing message from the universe, like somebody in tennessee wanting to make us horns, or a package full of krampus printing plates, (the examples i have this year are just too many to even count out)… or i just see his face… his dear little face!

who! could! resist! that!

in all its forms. personally, the more homemade, the better; that’s how i like my krampus.

it’s not possible to drag people along on one’s personal epiphanies, but if anyone is drawn here in the first place, i think i can at least say: come and participate. not participate in the “jump if you see someone jumping” way, and not telling everyone you know they should go in a monster-truck-rally-commercial-voice. participate, and help shape this event. what i have experienced has been transformative for me. the community we count on for this event grows a person at a time. there’s no special code (except for two rules…) and i would hope, above all, that everyone who attends on the fifteenth finds a way to make this event personal, and transformative. for yourself or anyone you see there.