krampuslauf philadelphia, 2012

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
– Albert Einstein


with over twice as many attendees as in 2011, including people from at least five states (connecticut, virginia, new jersey, new york and pennsylvania) — hardcore folklorists, a busload of german language high school students, many returnees and MANY new faces — krampuslauf philadephia, was, indeed, bigger this year. there are hundreds of photos in the group pool on flickr to attest to that.
the more pared-down, although still growing, official set of photos for krampuslauf 2012 (with attribution to all the photographers who contributed to it) is here, and will be whittled down yet again into a book, as we did last year.

this is how the 2012 krampuslauf philadelphia made me feel, from the minute i got there:


although factually, at least before i got my mask on, it was more like this:

photo by steve schultz,
photo by steve schultz,

i was certainly happy to hear from so many people how the lauf exceeded their expectations. but i like to get surprises too, and this year i got a really good one.

even early in 2012, i wanted to make a more cohesive sound for the lauf — something unifying but not too hard to join in with. i put out the call to our facebook group, but nobody bit… i checked out some local sources (like adventuredrum) but they were busy… i even contacted the philadelphia chapter (if you call it a “chapter”) of the rainbow people!

nobody bit.

in the 11th hour, we had someone on facebook say she wanted to bring her marching apparatus, cowbells and timbales to lauf, and we were overjoyed, and then in the 11th and a half hour she couldn’t. easy come, easy go. maybe next year.

and sometimes you just don’t get everything you want… i mean, NO ONE has dressed up like the golem yet for janet and she’s put that wish out there to the universe two whole years running, right?

and we had a lot of ambient bell clanging and that was certainly good enough and i was having so much fun as we got ready for the procession that i didn’t notice this guy:


and i continued to not-exactly-notice him until we were somewhere on spring garden avenue, when i realized he was VERY authoritatively maintaining a heartbeat for the entire procession. while looking amazing in that fez and badge-festooned jacket.

so thank you, kyle, you were, as you know, my favorite gift of krampuslauf 2012.

and other moments were happening for other people. sam, who MISSED lauf last year (as in, drove in from staten island and got there after it was over — d’oh), not only made it this year but met up with a friend whom she’d originally met by buying a life vest from him online. it’s a little convoluted to me still, but i’m pretty sure daniel MADE the life vest, or at least seeing his work i’m convinced he could:

sam and her pal, costumier daniel moyer.
sam and her pal, costumier daniel moyer.

around the grounds, we maintained some of the traditions we had begun last year.

we had our “alpine” backdrop…

photo courtesy of believe it tour (
photo courtesy of believe it tour (

and our head-in-a-hole. you HAVE to put your head in the hole; you HAVE to. (thank you, sue!)


and we also had our share-box, where we keep extra horns, glow-necklaces, noisemakers, etc. this year we encouraged people to take things home as souvenirs, but i was surprised to see that the box had new surprises IN it when we brought it home — including a few new masks and noisemakers! gotta love a share-box that has good give and take.

this year, we also had a food truck — guerilla ultima (delicious and just right for eating by the fire)


and fire/belly dancers, the really great lux arati (one of whom was my kids’ preschool teacher, thus our connection). (this photo by tom coombe:)


all our press this year was word of mouth other than one piece on delaware online mentioning us. we don’t promote. i really don’t know how people even find out other than facebook. to see people i’d only met online, or had never heard of at all, in handmade masks and costumes, was astounding. people brought their best.

i want it to always be clear, though, that as fantastic as that might be, that the most modest and home made and even last minute efforts are often just as memorable, and, well… haunting. and why have neat seams or perfect execution when you can go for memorable hauntingness on the cheap?

yes, i’m talking about “the ghost of krampus present”, my backpack puppet. i’ve never made a backpack puppet before this. and he was easy to scoff at, if you were that kind of person. but honestly — i know i’m pretty good at a lot of stuff already. i really wanted to do something i didn’t know much about. and i wanted it right out there, for anybody — anybody who comes to krampuslauf or may ever come to krampuslauf — to see as a big, wobbly example. MAKE THINGS!!!! make up stories and make them into physical objects THAT OTHER PEOPLE CAN POSSIBLY ENJOY WITH YOU!!! or in spite of you. i don’t know if there’s an afterlife, there might be, but if there is i’m pretty sure it’s overwhelmingly incorporeal. there’s no knitting, no markers, no boxes and tape. “MAKING STUFF” isn’t just the stupid time-killing biproduct of our mortal lives — IT’S THE THING WE CAN DO THAT NOBODY BUT LIVING MORTALS CAN DO! RIGHT NOW! so do NOT be afraid. i LOVE how many really A-game costumes we had this year — things that should have been in museums, rightly, in some cases, and some masterful handwork — but this is never going to turn into a big contest. nobody needs another contest. be a grocery-bag-head krampus. that is no less wonderful.

the ghost of krampus present puppet was a shambling, overcompensating goof of a krampus. he wanted to please. or at least he wanted to be able to get something or someone in his line of sight for long enough to make a new, good impression on it.

photo by steve schultz (
photo by steve schultz (

that invitation to the processional puppet making workshop in the italian alps showed up in my inbox just a few days too late…

(there was, by the way, a man inside that puppet. just one, mostly sightless and i suppose eventually very tired man, the whole time. i am grateful to him.)

back to my whole percussion fixation… although my post about stumpfiddles in may proved out of scope for the 2012 maker workshops… look what (and who) showed up!


robert, a wonderful belsnickle who was frantically searching for horse chestnuts the night before lauf (and who knew why someone had put that onion in the tree last year) not only had a stumpfiddle (which he calls a boombah, in pa dutch), we now have a lead on a source for how to make them.

after krampuslauf, our family went where they always go after a big event — the oregon diner.

"Really, Béla? You think that Krampus is actually a symbolic externalization of post-partum depression and paternal fear of a loss of intimacy brought on by child rearing? Please, elaborate..."
“Really, Béla? You think that Krampus is actually a symbolic externalization of post-partum depression and paternal fear of a loss of intimacy brought on by child rearing? Please, elaborate…”

here are some things and people i want to reiterate our gratitude for…

big damn heroes workshop
in tennesee. total strangers leaving a comment on our facebook page: “hey krampuslauf philadelphia, want some horns?” — and not only did they share their tutorial with us, but they made horns for us to use, a pair of which went to the giant puppet.

it was amazing enough when jeffrey magut and his son showed up last year from connecticut… but this year he sent us a box full of fabulous tiny krampus bells — perfect for our handpuppet workshop!! he also included a piece of leather from his own mask making for this year… just an indication to me that he totally gets it.

because bits of material are what we frequently share with krampuslauf PDX in portland oregon:


that’s this year’s gift from arun: a swatch of printed fabric, a wool tongue, a knitted length of cord, all dyed with pokeberries in a pumpkin over three nights during samhain. i saw someone trot off with the tongue at maker workshop; the fabric and cord got worked into my frau perchta tabard and spinning distaff. i am always grateful for my friendship with arun, particularly during december though!

more thanks to cat and bomber from virginia, who sent hand-made leather tongues that were used in every child’s handpuppet… brooke of bog berry handcrafts who left carded wool in my door, also for puppet-making… marva from seattle who sent handmade printing plates for printing cards and ornaments…

and michael esordi of believe it tour, who did this:


to receive this kind of generosity throughout the season leading up to krampuslauf was amazing enough. but to see almost every single one of these people AT krampuslauf was really, well, kinda transcendent.

and very big thanks, of course, to the families and friends of liberty lands, who don’t HAVE to let krampsulauf happen there, much less mull wine, hang decorations, wear giant ungainly blinding puppets, or subject their children to monsters — but they do. i am not sure what living in philly would be like for our family, without knowing these people. we would have missed out on a lot more than krampuslauf.

i’ve lived in the “straight” christmas world for four decades prior to my krampus involvement and never saw this kind of giving – this attitude of the more you give, the more you have — until the “devil of christmas” came into my family’s life. so much of what i enjoyed this year was in what led up to the event itself — the making, the working together, the new connections with people — that there were days before the lauf when i thought, “you know, if we get rained out, this really was all worth it anyway.” krampuslauf philly is just not a zero sum game. (and then i came up with a rain contingency plan that was so UTTERLY fabulous i’m still almost sorry we didn’t get to use it… but who knows, some day we might!)

and so many people said the words to me: “i already can’t wait until next year!” … neither can i. i’m already pretty sure there will be some interesting lateral moves and real surprises… and gifts. and i still don’t feel like i’ve finished thanking everyone. what if the best way to thank everyone was start to think about what a great time we could have when we all see each other again next year…?