The Krampus Society of New England hosted their 2017 Krampus Ball—in celebration of their favorite Christmas demon—at Providence’s Mediator Stage on Saturday night.
“We are a group of friendly, like minded people from around the New England area who all enjoy the lore and history of Krampus and to clear up the misconceptions that surround him,” the event organizers write.
Krampus are half-goat, half-demon creatures that traditionally roam European alpine communities during the Christmas season—especially around Austria, Germany, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and northern Italy. They often accompany Saint Nicholas in public processions. While the saint brings good cheer and gifts, the Krampus scare children alleged to have misbehaved and whip folks who end up in the wrong place at the wrong time (basically anywhere Krampus are). Sometimes they stuff kids into bags and make off with them.
It’s easy for Americans to see Krampus as Christian devils or demons. But they likely predate Christianity, connecting back to pre-Germanic paganism. The name is said to originate in the German word “krampen” or “claw.”
Some say Krampus is a son of the Norse god of the underworld, Hel. Whether that’s accurate or not, Krampus is surely another example of how goats continue to haunt the West. Goats are hardy starter animals for herding societies—they’re aren’t picky eaters and they provide wool (mohair, cashmere), milk and meat. Krampus—like the randy ancient Greek deity Pan and the magical goats that pull the Norse god Thor’s chariot and the Christian Devil—is a manifestation of the persistent resonance of goats in cultures that arose through herding.
The Krampus Society of New England’s Krampus Ball was scheduled to offer “BYOB, costume contest, guest speakers, photo ops, spankings for the naughty, cleavage contest, dancing, Krampus Karaoke, much Krampus merriment.” Mobley, a rescued goat who does service work, put in an appearance, I’m told. And organizers say the event raised money for the U.S Marine Corps Reserve Toys 4 Tots program and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Photos by Thomas Dragone and his wife Connie.