Welcome to What the FAQ, where we ask the hard-hitting questions about an upcoming event.
Remind me… what is Krampusnacht DC?
As we detailed last year, Krampusnacht DC is an “inclusive community event” that allows “creative types to celebrate the holiday season” while raising funds to support DC foster youth. Like other Krampusnachts held throughout the world, the night centers around the folkloric tradition of Krampus. This year’s event partners with-
Wait, who is Krampus?
OK, let’s take a step back (again).
In Central European folklore (as memorialized by Wikipedia), Krampus is a “horned, anthropomorphic figure” often described as half-goat and half-demon. I repeat: HALF-GOAT, HALF-DEMON. During the Christmas season, this freak was said to punish children who misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas (aka Santa), who rewarded well-behaved kids with gifts. Notably, though, Krampus was said to be part of Saint Nicholas’s crew. It’s sort of the pre-Christian good cop / bad cop routine of the Alpine region.
“It’s German folklore – like, Hansel and Gretel dark,” Jennifer Horan, one of Krampusnacht DC’s organizers, told me in 2018. “It’s easy to imagine how the idea caught on. Think about being a kid in these Alpine villages where it gets dark so very early and there’s this huge forest . Back then, of course, people would move to other villages and tweak the tradition, and we’ve done the same thing – we’ve kind of made it our own.”
A central part of the Krampus tradition is Krampusnacht (or “Krampus night”). Krampusnacht falls on December 5 – the evening before Nikolastaug (or the Feast of Saint Nicholas). On Krampusnacht, our favorite goat demon would visit the homes and businesses of bad children. There were often Krampus balls to mark the occasion. More commonly, towns would hold a Krampuslauf (translation: “Krampus run”), wherein locals donned “carved wooden masks, cowbells, chains, and elaborate costumes” to run through town or the Christmas market, “frightening and sometimes beating bystanders.”
“It’s a big ordeal,” said Horan, a self-identified “military brat” who spent time in Benelux and Munich growing up. “Saint Nicholas leads the way, maybe with some woodsmen and angels and witches. Some towns in the Alps have some crazy characters – like, these big haystack guys with giant bells. They deliberately try to scare people. Over there, Krampus is supposed to be scary. Krampus is Santa’s elf that comes for you if you’re a bad kid. You don’t just get a lump of coal in your stocking – you get beaten by a switch or carried off in a sack. Maybe he’ll eat you; I don’t know. Over here, we kind of tone that down.”
What’s the deal with Krampusnacht DC?
This year’s Krampusnacht DC is on Saturday, December 7.
The event starts at 5:00 p.m. with a family friendly reception at Gallery O on H Street. (Note: This is outside, so dress appropriately.) Children of all ages can visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. There will be a coloring and craft station. There will be a face painting station. There will be the opportunity to take photos with Krampus and/or Santa Clause.
Adults, meanwhile, will have access to a cash bar with beer and cider.
But wait there’s more! There will be a fire performance from Peculiarity Productions! Yes, a performance of fucking fire.
This bounty of entertainment and folkloric richness can be yours for the suggested donation of $15, all of which goes to DC foster kids as part of Krampusnacht DC’s partnership with National Center for Children and Families, a 501(c)(3) that aims to “create total, healthy living environments for vulnerable children, youth, and families.”
Also, you’re encouraged to bring at least one unwrapped gift for a child (ages youth to 21), and to entice your generosity, each gift earns you a door prize raffle ticket.
At 7:00, things get real: Santa will announce that he’s releasing the Krampus. This kicks off the Krampuslauf Charity Walk, which pretty much entails a relatively short jaunt down the street to Cusbah. Walkers will be joined by the Batala Drummers to “amplify their rhythms.” Based on the video, this looks wild.
After a spell at Cusbah, walkers will head back to Gallery O. From 9:00 on, Krampusnacht DC turns into an adults-only event. Sorry, kiddos.
This party will feature more performances, sponsor giveaways, and an adult costume contest.
Will Krampus show its face in DC before December 7?
Yes, Krampus will be at the DC Brau Holiday Market on Saturday, November 30.
What is the DC Brau Holiday Market?
The DC Brau Holiday Market is a, um, holiday market that’s been held on Small Business Saturday for the past five years. It serves as a showcase for over 40 local craftspeople, artisans, purveyors, and whatever else you’d like to call them.
Why is Krampus there?
Krampusnacht DC is one of several non-profit community partners participating in the event, along with with Think Local First DC and the Historic Bladensburg Main Street. This is actually the organization’s second year appearing at the event.
“DC Brau suggested [our] presence to further support fundraising efforts for DC foster youth, and to provide additional visibility outside of the Krampusnacht event proper,” says Horan. “Plus, Krampus is fun!”
The organization will have a booth at the market (in the “Krampus corner,” near the back bar), where they’ll collect unwrapped new toys and gifts (for children aged 0 to 18), as well as cash donations, for the National Center for Children and Families. Krampusnacht DC will also be selling raffle tickets (for prizes donated by DC Brau Holiday Market participants) to raise additional funds for the NCCF.
OK, but will Krampus itself be attending?
Of course Krampus will be in the house! He/she/it will even be ready to pose for holiday pictures.
Side note: You win the holiday picture card game if your kid is posing with Krampus.
Side note to the side note: The cost of winning the aforementioned game may be some therapy sessions in a few years.
Side note to the side note to the side note: Totally worth it.
Horan also promises “other yuletide creatures,” which for real might be more terrifying based purely on the broad definition of “yuletide creatures” with which we’re working.
Did DC Brau make a beer for the occasion?
Check out the brain on Brad! Yes, Brewmaster Jeff Hancock concocted a special Krampus beer just for the DC Brau Holiday Market.
What is the Krampus beer?
Look, I was getting there. Calm down.
The 2019 Krampus beer is variant of DC Brau’s The Stone of Arbroath, a Scottish-style Wee heavy that coincidentally makes it return to DC Brau in draft and cans on Saturday. (I discussed the beer with co-founders Hancock and Brandon Skall back in 2015.)
For Krampusnacht DC, Hancock filled two casks with The Stone of Arbroath, and then spiked them with lemon zest, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, apple cider, and apples personally roasted by the brewmaster.
Hancock says that the beer is his playful interpretation of a wassail.
What is wassail?
According to Hancock, wassail is a spiced beverage from the Middle Ages.
“It’s basically a mulled cider, but we used beer as a fun riff,” the brewmaster explains. “It was traditionally drank at English apple orchards while reciting incantations in wishing for good apple harvests the following year.”
Proceeds from the sale of DC Brau’s limited-edition, holiday-spirited beer-wassail (which will be available exclusively at the DC Brau Holiday Market) will go to DC foster youth via the National Center for Children and Families.
“The idea to brew a special Krampus beer to benefit fundraising efforts was actually DC Brau’s idea,” explains Horan. “We talked about it back in 2017, but were finally able to get it on the schedule this year, and everyone is really excited to try it when we tap the firkin. DC Brau has just been amazingly generous with their support of Krampusnacht DC’s efforts to raise money for DC foster kids.”
Is there any way for me to commemorate this occasion in the form of clothing?
Yes, DC Brau made a maroon T-shirt featuring that mischievous ol’ Krampus, as pictured above. Proceeds from the sale of this terrifying piece of fabric also go to DC foster youth. These shirts are already for sale in the DC Brau tasting room.
Are there any other local Krampus beers?
You’re not going to believe this, but the answer is yes.
It looks like the lovers of heavy metal and occult iconography at Atlas Brew Works have teamed up with Homesick Productions and Death Throes Booking to brew Hour of Darkness, which they are calling a “Krampusnacht Beer.”
This porter will be released on December 7 at the brewery’s Krampusnacht 2.
Krampusnacht 2 is in no way affiliated with the charitable Krampusnacht DC. It is just a righteous heavy metal event that promises to “turn DC’s only underground metal sanctuary into a bone-laden wintery hellscape.” Also, one of the bands performing at this event is called Mosquito DRONE. That seems relevant to note.
Who is behind Krampusnacht DC?
Krampusnacht DC is organized by a 10-member planning committee that includes teachers, social workers, federal employees, and graphic designers. Led by Melina “Mel” Afzal (who also runs the burlesque troupe Palace Productions), this group meets once a month to keep Krampusnacht DC rolling.
“We have quite a cornucopia of backgrounds,” said Horan, who falls into the “federal employee” bucket..
2019 marks the seventh year that Krampusnacht DC will benefit a charity related to DC foster kids.
“It’s the season for giving,” explains Horan, who has been involved in planning the event since 2013. “Why would we do this big event if it doesn’t benefit somebody in our neighborhood?”
While most other Krampusnacht events around the country don’t have a charitable angle, Horan sees it as congruous with the spirit of the tradition.
“Traditionally, from the Netherlands down through Germany and Austria, Saint Nicholas Day is often supported by the village volunteer fire department or other volunteer groups,” she explains. “Krampus DC is a group of volunteers as well, and all who work to pull off Krampusnacht DC volunteer thier time and talents.”
Horan also notes that the First District police department has embraced Krampusnacht DC and helps to make it a family friendly, safe event.