The sixth time.

The latest in December we ever scheduled it! (Since we don’t have to try to get it as close to Krampusnacht as we can anymore.)

(Here’s the entire thing, on time-lapse, from pre-Parade to post, although from where the camera was you couldn’t see the fire show. But this was the best place to have this particular camera and I love Linda for thinking of this and seeing it through!)

Oh, still plenty of Krampusse, but so much else as well.

photo by tom coombe
photo by tom coombe

“It felt sacred. And relaxed,” said a someone who had traveled from Arizona just to be there.

I wish I had had more time to spend with her, and all of our Tucson friends who came. The week before this event never feels sacred or relaxed and usually involves antibiotics for me. This year was challenging in that I was in the process of settling the estate of my recently deceased father, and started homeschooling my kids seventeen days before Parade of Spirits.

2016 was a long hard journey for many of us, and not necessarily an easy time to think about preparing a Parade, but then at about one AM, almost a full week before the 17th I got this image — of a Sonoran Shark Perchta who had just settled into her hotel . She and her husband were up for anything. So I was going to be, too.


Jana and Matt came packed not only with a Sonoran Shark headpiece, but the beginnings of Leon Russell as the Frost King — a comfort in the time of his recent passing. Our family even got to work on his creation, at our own house, while listening to Leon’s music.

We introduced Matt and Jana to scrapple at brunch — they don’t have that in Tucson — and we got to contribute to Leon’s hair, hat, and mirrored glasses. Leon lives here now. Jana and Matt dropped him on our doorstep after the Parade, as they passed through our neighborhood heading down to see the Miracle on 13th Street. They did everything there was to do. They were amazing.

tuscon's sonoran shark perchta and leon russel the frost king. my miracles. photo by neil kohl.
tuscon’s sonoran shark perchta and leon russel the frost king. my miracles. photo by neil kohl.

Also, before Parade even happened, I received a twice-gifted item. The frame drum Tucker had given me for Mother’s Day had been sent to Arun, and he decorated it for processional use. It is gorgeous.


There was a bit of a wet forecast for the 17th, but the chances of it being a problem diminished by the hour.

Even though last year was the year Tucker and I designed and knitted the Golem for Janet, this was the year that a worthy photo was taken. Guess who took it?

thanks, neil!
thanks, neil!

This year Claudia and Béla were more active in the design of their costumes than ever before (and Béla very active in the execution of his — he got some glue gun burns). We learned this year: when you need fake fur, buy “scrap” boxes from Furry supply websites. They have the best stuff. Tucker got us way more than we could have even used, for seventy dollars!

Claudia was very regal (Tuck did the math on her fur hoop skirt, which I handsewed), and the crown Tuck made her was amazing. (That crow skull is actually chocolate. And Béla was very badass in his Bender/GWAR/Samurai Krampus outfit, with skull pauldrons.

photo by tom coombe.
photo by tom coombe.

And honestly — although 90% of it got made in the 48 hours before Parade, and it was almost immediately determined (as I think Chris Carson said) that the mask was “as far as tape and foil could be taken” — far enough, in fact, that we knew it would never be worn again, was too large to keep, and was put on the curb before Christmas — the fact is, this was Ben’s best costume ever.

not surprisingly, another one by neil kohl.
not surprisingly, another one by neil kohl.

A major highlight of this year’s Parade was seeing Claude and Béla perform onstage with Lux Arati. There wasn’t interest in the kids’ pre-show this year as there had been in the previous two years, but my kids had assumed it was going to happen, and, well, they were ready. Béla had been practicing with fire all year. This was a banner performance for Lux Arati in many ways — they brought to life my DREAM of dancing plague doctors — and the costuming was incredible.

And Claude was great with her fiber-optic whip, but seeing your eight-year-old son dancing with live torches… is a proud moment.

Not only were our friends from Tucson there, but my friend Juls drove through the night from Athens, Georgia, for the second year in a row. This year we actually got to have brunch with her and her son the next day. I can’t believe how infrequently this is though, and our family needs to get to Athens… or the rest of Athens needs to start getting in Juls’ car…

But Juls and her son Matti were very helpful in handing out the homemade gifts my kids had ready to give to onlookers. Tiny bath bombs (thanks to Marian) and thaumatropes designed by Béla (which went very quickly — sure to be a collector’s item!) We had everything stashed in my big grapevine cornucopia, which looked lovely full of treats.

Since this was a year of many changes, we had let people know early on in 2016 that Chris Carson — creator of Das Mädchen and Es Meedli — was just fine with the idea of someone else “being” The Big Girl this year. Confluence — Natalie Zaman appears on FB early in 2016 to ask for pictures to accompany her piece about Krampuslauf/Parade of Spirits in her book Magical Destinations of the Northeast.

Not only does she get pictures, but even before June, she has committed to being Das Mädchen. Parade of Spirits was the day before Natalie’s 47th birthday and it was her time to shine.

yes. it's a photo by neil kohl. what can be said? he's very good at this. did you see his exhibition?
yes. it’s a photo by neil kohl. what can be said? he’s very good at this. did you see his exhibition?

With VERY little time to spare, though, we needed to find an Es Meedli. Willa — whom we have jokingly referred to as “Béla’s wife” for some years (well, she gave him a ring) seemed game. C. and B. had done some modelling for Willa’s mom’s work this past summer, and from that photo shoot we knew Willa could handle a little discomfort. (Which Es Meedli does provide. Make no mistake.)


Five days before the Parade, she gave it her first try-on. And she did an amazing job. As evidenced in this photo by… Neil Kohl.

“But I remember you telling me something about getting a MEDAL for this?”

YES. Chris got out of wearing Das Mädchen at work, and he still hasn’t given Claudia’s favorite doll that hip replacement she needs, but we had him working! He is INDEED making the molds for a Das Mädchen medal and an Es Meedli medal. Whoever takes these characters on in 2017, and every subsequent year, will also receive a medal (we suppose Chris gets a Das Mädchen medal. Béla and Claudia are certainly sure they are getting Es Meedli medals).

the mold -- or the cast, i don't quite get this process -- for the das mädchen medal.
the mold — or the cast, i don’t quite get this process — for the das mädchen medal.

It is funny — days BEFORE last year’s Krampuslauf Philadelphia/Parade of Spirits, Tuck and I had gotten bees in our bonnet about making lucha masks. After Lauf, we tried it on our own, and it went … eh. A friend put us in touch with his friend Kate, who runs Closet Champion, and who gave a few of us a workshop in late January last year.

Well, we are known for our follow through. As seen in this lovely portrait by… um… Neil Kohl… Tuck and I both utilized our lucha mask making skills. He is a badass femme Lucha Cailleach — a whole new interpretation. And yes, I have a lucha-style mask in there — it has the uvula between my eyes. This double-mask combo is my favorite look yet! People speaking directly to me were asking where they should “look”. It was great! And with my “eviscerated child” sidekick, Fenstad, this was definitely my favorite Frau Perchta incarnation to date.

(thanks for everything, neil.) <3
(thanks for everything, neil.) ❤

One of the most interesting things about this Krampus season was something we had no part in, but a couple of friends had contacted me about before Parade of Spirits. It was something they had seen out in West Philadelphia… and neither of them was having an easy time really describing it. So, the day after Parade — after having brunch with the friends who had driven from Georgia to be there, and after the kids’ holiday dance recital — we went. To the West Philly Krampus Lair.


The adventure seems to have inspired something in Claudia, who has already met with Janet to discuss her vision for 2017. Meanwhile, our family is also going to have a super-secret five-person concept costume. (I’m not really good at keeping secrets about costumes, but maybe…)

We are, as ever, grateful to the Penn Treaty Special Services District, for their support of Parade of Spirits, Liberty Lands. Having safeties and crossing guards is a very big deal.

We are grateful to Mom-Mom’s Polish Food Cart for coming out this year although we really have to tell our food trucks (now that our beloved Guerilla Ultima is no more) that they need fairy lights to be seen, even if they are in plan sight! With all those monsters and fire… but the pierogies were delicious.

This year in particular Parade of Spirits was a year-long venture and even though I don’t have all the photos from December 17th up on Flickr yet, the set is coming along. Natalie wrote an article on, though, and that’s pretty great.

It was all pretty great. Many new faces and many new ideas coming out of those faces. This means a lot to us.

Thanks to each and every one of you! Thank you Lux Arati for keeping my son in his natural uncooked state! We are looking forward to our seventh go at it!!