Krampusnacht, the annual celebration of Krampus, the German half-goat/half-demon counterpart to St. Nick, is returning to the streets of Milwaukee on Sunday, Dec. 4 at Pabst Brewery’s Best Place. The event will include local art, music, food, drinks and performances. And despite the scary facade, Krampusnacht is open to all ages.
“The holidays are very commercialized and stressful,” says Tea Krulos, the event’s organizer (and a frequent Milwaukee Magazine contributor). “One of the things people love about this event is there isn’t that pressure of normal holiday celebrations. You don’t have to worry about gift-giving or awkward social situations. All you have to do is show up and have fun.”
The event runs from 3-9 p.m. throughout several spots around Best Place. There will be an outdoor stage with performances by Dead Man’s Carnival, The Squeezettes and Xposed 4heads, as well as a local belly dance company, Tamarind.
Festival-goers can pop back and forth between locations to participate in karaoke, tarot readings, a white elephant exchange, Yuletide Scarings and several other events. Krampusnacht also has an extensive vendor’s floor, with local and regional makers selling unique jewelry, candles, toys and other wares just in time to get a jump on holiday shopping.
There will be breakout events, including Kids Krampus Hour, where children can make their own Krampus masks. There is also a Krampus card-making workshop as well as a presentation about winter legends in folklore by paranormal researcher Chad Lewis.
The main event is the Krampus Parade, which starts at 7 p.m. The parade features over 100 characters, collaborators and participants. Juneau Avenue will be blocked off, and the parade route will extend between Ninth and Eleventh streets. Krampus himself will be the star of the parade, riling up the crowd on his way to find the naughty children of the city.
According to National Geographic, “While St. Nick is on hand to put candy in the shoes of good kids and birch twigs in the shoes of the bad, Krampus’ particular specialty is punishing naughty children. Legend has it that throughout the Christmas season, misbehaved kids are beaten with birch branches or can disappear, stuffed into Krampus’ sack and hauled off to his lair.”
In 2017, Krulos was kicking around the idea of a Krampus celebration with a few friends. They noticed the growing celebrations in cities like New Orleans and Los Angeles. He quickly started a Facebook group to see if there was enough interest to attempt a celebration.
Though it may seem like an odd character to celebrate, Krulos was confident that “there are enough weird people in Milwaukee that would check it out,” he says. The reception proved bigger than he anticipated.
“We were looking to have at least 200 people interested in the event,” he says. “Once the event was live, we sold 500 tickets in a few days.”
It’s grown dramatically in the five years since. This year, Krulos expects 2,000 or more participants to join in the untraditional festivities. The new location at Best Place is advantageous – the space can accommodate hundreds more, if the event keeps growing.
“Krampusnaucht has already become a holiday tradition for local families,” says Krulos. “Not everyone loves the Holly Jolly spirits – the commercials, the expenses, the Christmas music – Krampusnaucht is the antithesis of that.”
You can purchase tickets to Milwaukee Krampusnacht at milwaukeekrampusnacht.com/tickets.