Christmas with the Krampuses

Nontraditional approaches to the holidays are alive and well.

The first local Krampus walk was a beastly hoot last year.

In case you don’t know the tale, Krampus is a grumpy monster buddy of St. Nick’s who dates back to pre-Christian folklore of Alpine countries. The local version involves a bunch of furry Gwar-like beasties with horns, hooves and birch switches roaming through Carytown while threatening to punish bad children. Think Zombie Walk, populated by rowdy Chewbacca offspring.

After terrorizing C-town, they just give up and drink beer at Portrait House.

Started by Nicole Pisaniello and impresario Parker Galore, RVA Krampusnacht has a website, T-shirts and stickers — and this year there will be additional arts events because of the good inaugural turnout. Style Weekly asked Galore what to expect.

Style: What was it like last year and what did you learn? 

Galore: We had over 40 participants of all ages in our initial Krampus army marching through Carytown. We also had a St. Nicholas and a few other Alpine folklore yuletide characters too. As we approached the Byrd Theatre, our final destination being Portrait House across the street, I noticed a long line of people and decided to get the walk to jump across the street and interact. Well, that long line ended up being a Christian church group there for a special event who weren’t too happy with horned beasts approaching them. At that point they were saying things like, “Devil, be gone!” joining hands and singing gospel hymns, and some telling us we were going to hell. But that’s just it: Krampus is from pre-Christian Alpine folklore. When Christianity became the dominant religion it took imagery and folklore, twisted and mashed some of it together and demonized multiple figures to form “the Devil.” So many people still don’t know the roots. 

How will it be different this year?

This year we expect even more people to join the walk on Dec. 6. But we’re adding to the Krampus festivities by adding “Yuletide Monsters: A Krampus Art Show” at 9WG studios with a First Fridays Art Walk exhibition opening on Dec. 5, showcasing 25 local artists’ interpretations of the Krampus. … Also, Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School [fun figure drawing] on Nov. 25 will be Krampus themed, and there’s a “Dark Xmas” burlesque show and another Krampus-themed event later in December at Strangeways Brewing, where the icon will make an appearance. 

Why should this nontraditional tradition stick in Richmond?

Well, first of all it’s over-the-top fun. I think it’s important to keep telling this story, spotlighting and celebrating these folklore icons from the past. It also nudges people to reinvestigate different celebrations and their origins. The more you know where things were, the more you understand how they arrived at their present condition. This one is particularly important because Krampus got the shaft at some point, and we’re part of the mischievous movement to bring him back. There are more Krampus celebrations and events popping up across the United States. Christmas has become a disgusting, dulled-down consumer holiday focused on shopping and money. Especially in the U.S., Krampus symbolizes a little twisted, slightly weird fun and makes people question the priorities and deformation of modern Yuletide.

Richmond’s Krampusnacht gathers at Portrait House on Dec. 6 at 5:30 p.m. to review rules and hold a costume contest. The walk follows. Afterward, the group returns to Portrait House for an afterparty.


What are your nontraditional traditions?

Miss Magnolia Jackson Pickett Burnside
Southern Fried Socialite

“I used to think: How can they do a Christmas play every year and Mary’s got no baby bump? So I decided I’m gonna be the pregnant Virgin Mary. I did it at Richmond Burlesque Revue and at Wabi Sabi’s in Petersburg. First of all you need a halo, because you’re holy. My halo lights up, it’s a divine light off my virginity because I’m such a pure being. I come out to ‘O Holy Night,’ then a beat drops to Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin.’ Then I strip off my clothes and breastfeed the baby Jesus. … I’m going to hell, you realize this right?”

The performance will happen at “Burlesque at the Byrd” on Sunday, Dec. 7, and in Wabi Sabi in Petersburg on Dec. 21.

Morong Koy
Managing Partner, RVA Fashion Week

“We like to get in the day before Thanksgiving and have our annual Bobby Flay-Paula Dean Throwdowns. What the challenge entails is picking one person from Team Price [my sister and her husband] and one member of Team Koy [myself and the remaining Koy circle] to challenge one another. Each team will pick a family member as their sous chef. My nephews are the judges and normally the deciding factor if we have a tie. Last Thanksgiving was my brother-in-law and myself battling each other in our Bobby Flay (Riley Price) and Paula Dean (Morong Koy) Throwdown. We both made a Marsala entrée and was voted by each member of the family to see who’s version was the best. I cannot say I won that battle. … I blame the pan, I didn’t have my special pan.”

Maggie Small
Company Dancer, Richmond Ballet

“When everyone hears ‘Nutcracker’ music, people hear holiday-time Christmas music. For us, it’s really work. When I go home I hear it on commercials, I feel like that’s unfair to play this at me right now. I’m cringing just a little bit. But I know the holiday season is kicking in when I no longer cringe at it, but think: ‘That was a really good tempo. I’d like to dance to that.’ There are basic performance rituals that everyone does [during the shows]. For ‘Nutcracker,’ the kids are involved, so it adds silliness, which is refreshing on show 14. As the overture plays, before we go onstage, everyone makes up a dance, we do a family dance. Everyone gets 16 counts and we follow what they’re doing.”


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