Saturday, December 7, 2019

Milwaukee Krampusnacht

A couple of nights ago, my mom and I were lucky enough to attend a Krampusnacht event in the Milwaukee area. This is the third year this event has taken place, but this was our first time going. I'm going to guess that a good deal of the people reading this know about Krampus, but if you don't know what Krampusnacht is, it translates to "Krampus Night".

Krampusnacht is a festival that takes place on the 5th of December, like the eve of Saint Nicholas Day. Krampus is the counterpart to St. Nicholas. If you're a good child, St. Nicholas rewards you for that. If you're not, Krampus takes you away in his sack. This is a European festival, think Germanic or Austrian. Although, I have seen some amazing parades in other European countries on YouTube. Italy was really bringing it this year.

Milwaukee is a traditionally German place and therefore a really good fit for a Krampus event. And there's something in addition to the German aspect here that I can't quite put my finger on, something that would make this a welcome event. The Krampusnacht we attended was at the Bavarian Bierhaus.

Here's a view of the beer hall, which as you can see was pretty packed!

You'll see these two characters later. Pretty creative costumes, hey?

This is the bar area, where a lot of creatures were congregating.

People were dressed in Krampus costumes, as angels, as mysterious monsters, and as witches. There were plenty of witches. Some witches were traditional like the lady below, and some were super traditional in the way where the masks looked at least a hundred years old.

After hanging out in the beer hall area and listening to some music, we went outside. Wasn't this the perfect night setting to see a Krampus or two?

There were moments where I felt like I was on the TV show Grimm.

How cool is this festive Krampus? I love how this one is carrying a switch that lights up. I should mention the switches they carry. A person could possibly get swatted with one of those. This wasn't hardcore European Krampus swatting, but it's something to mention because it's part of Krampus behavior.

I thought this one looked like a real party-time Krampus. :)

I loved the Krampus archway that was set up outside. I assume there was a fog machine going, because there was a lot of "Krampus breath" fogging out of the mouth.

Time for the parade to begin! This was really exciting for me, after watching Krampus parades for a few years on YouTube.

These pics are a little blurry on account of some uneven lighting and movement, but I think in some cases that gives a ghostly look to the people.

Now, here is one of those old wooden witch masks I was telling you about.  This witch tried to give me a photo opp, but it was pretty dark. In the end, I added a light sepia tone to this pic. I thought it would be neat to make this look like a blurry old photograph. If I didn't know better, I could believe this pic was taken in 1920 or 1930. It reminds me of the sort of old photo I'd pick up in an antique store. Actually, I would love to find an antique witch pic like this. Hmm... something to look for.

I'm not sure who this elf lady with the switch is. I'm sure she's a somebody out of German folklore, but I'm not familiar with her. Let me know if you have a guess! What's funny about this pic is that it was so dark that I didn't even know the two guys were behind her before lightening it! But it looks like they were aware of me.

These two look scary, but they were super friendly. I thought everyone we ran into at this event was friendly and welcoming.

I'm including this one too, because I'm still getting a kick out of why I'm laughing so hard here. I'd just gotten switched in the face (accidentally or not I'm not sure) and one of those sticks went up my nose a bit. I was just at that level. So, I was already laughing and the taller creature said "Gotcha!" out of what seemed to be his neck and that was just further funny. I can't have actually thought a voice would come out of that little skull up there. :)

This outdoor beer garden seemed like another scene out of Grimm.

There was a bonfire going, which I think is pretty standard for Krampus Night events. At least, from the pics I've seen online of the European festivals, there always seem to be big fires. I have to mention the Italian one I watched footage of again, because someone had lit a good part of the street on fire.

I love this photo, because it looks like some kind of fire creature is emerging from the flames.

And I like this one too, because that person on the side is kind of like "Yo-Ho!" partying around the fire. I was joking that a Krampus with a lot of fur would probably not want to get too close to those sparks.

Just look at those embers! I feel warm again just looking at this. I felt really warm near the fire and when posing next to a Krampus or two for photos. Touching those costumes after they've been near a fire is like cuddling up next to a warm, furry blanket.

This is one of my favorites! This troll-like creature was peeking around the crowd, while sparks flew in front of him.

This is the same Krampus I started the post off with. Doesn't the red light from the fire do something extra for these costumes? I was calling this one my buddy, because it kept appearing and posing. So I had many opportunities to get some photos of it!

Now, this guy seemed a little more dangerous than the others. In part, because of the detailed prosthetics, pointy teeth, light contacts, and other costume details. But the biggest reason he was scary was the way he was carrying himself.

He was skulking around the fire, glancing at people in this menacing way.

This is another shot that was nearly black, but when I lightened it on the computer I got a surprise!

Eventually the devilish Krampus creature stopped circling the fire and walked over to where we were standing. He got up in my face, I got this picture, and then he smooshed my hat over my face!

On the other end of things, St. Nicholas was there along with several angels. One of the angels nicely came over to us while we were standing by the fire and offered us some candy.

You might remember these two from the bar area. You can barely make out my mom in the middle there.

These two were beyond patient with us while we tried to get some clear photos with them. Eventually, the one with the glowing eyes handed my mom his phone and she took this pic on that. He was nice enough to email it to me.

The jaws of those masks open and close, as you can see here. I like this picture a lot, with the way the fire is reflecting on his face. And it gives an impression like a monster ate this man and he's peeking out of the monster's mouth.

The back of their headpieces:

I just learned of Mari Lwyd, this spooky, yet glamorous horse head a day before attending this event! I learned about Mari from Dex and Eve. Mari Lwyd is a Welsh creature that is part of the Wassailing tradition. So this creature would trot on up to a door and after a little back and forth, be let in for some snacks and drinks. I keep hearing that song Hello Mary Lou in my head! Only with "Mari Lwyd" substituted in.

A person inside that sheet is holding the horse skull up on a stick. This ghostly looking creature was quite prancy, bobbing on down the street. If you'd like to learn more about Mari, this video is really worth a watch:

You'll get a peek at an authentic, Welsh Mari Lwyd experience. The man operating the Mari character brings a lot of life to the creature. It moves in a playful, life-like way and is surprisingly endearing. Watching that, I thought it would be fun to operate one of these. It's like being a puppeteer.

So there's our first Krampusnacht! Pretty cool, hey? I know you guys would have loved being there. It was so neat to take part in something I'd only seen videos of in other countries. Hearing big cowbells move down the street, being switched at, having my hat pulled down like I'd seen happen to other girls at these parades. It was just that right level of scary for me.

I don't know if I'd be up for those European (especially Austrian) Krampus parades, because I wouldn't want to get injured. From what I've heard, you're smart to stay out of the way at some of those. A German woman who'd been at these sort of festivals back in the day told me it could get pretty scary. Like so scary, she stayed inside after dark! I think the event we attended got things just right. The creatures and crowd were very inviting, but there was that little bit of danger in the air.

Do any of you have some Krampus parade or Krampus event stories to share? I'd love to hear them!

P.S. ~ I just checked YouTube for videos from the event and someone posted a video of the parade a couple hours ago! So if you'd like to see these creatures in action and get an idea of what I saw, here it is: