Williamsport, Pa. – A new holiday tradition is coming to Williamsport this year – one that involves a horned mythical half goat and half demon creature.
The 1st Annual Running of the Krampus parade event is set for 5:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5 starting at the Green on W. Fourth and Hepburn streets and ending at Enchanted Christmasland at Pine and Church streets.
You’ve never heard of Krampus, you say?
Krampus is a figure in Central European folklore who comes around during the holiday season and punishes children who have misbehaved. He has horns, fangs, cowbells on his waist, and a switch made of birch sticks meant for whipping or swatting at naughty children.
Krampus made his debut into American pop culture a few years ago via the silver screen. The movie Krampus, released in December of 2015, is a Christmas comedy horror film that introduced many Americans to the folklore character.
“I learned about Krampus about four or five years ago,” said event organizer Jay Hill, of Williamsport. “I learned about him from movies."
Hill was intrigued by the Krampus character, who is the opposite of St. Nicholas. "St. Nicholas would give gifts to the good children, and Krampus would take care of the bad children. Krampus would also give sticks to all children to remind them he's there and to behave through the year," Hill said.
Hill read an article about several running of the Krampus events held throughout the country, including a particularly large one in Oregon.
“I started thinking, we can do this around here,” Hill said.
Hill started a Facebook event page a few months ago and it now has more than 3.3K people interested. “I didn’t think it would be a very big thing originally. I thought it would be me and five to 10 of my friends.”
The December 5 date is not a random one - it's the same date as Krampusnacht or Krampus Night. Krampusnacht is a celebration that dates back hundreds of years to Europe and has been becoming popular in some of the larger U.S. cities.
Participants are invited to wear a Krampus costume or dress as any Yuletide character. Hill is planning to wear a Krampus costume he made himself, with a few modifications. “I made a costume and I wore it to a Christmas party, and I thought it went well,” Hill said.
His wife is going to dress as a Yule Cat, an Icelandic folklore figure. Hill explained that there are other European folklore characters related to Krampus, including the Yule Lads, who have tactics they use to scare children into good behavior. "Gryla is forest or hill giant from Iceland. The Yule Lads are the sons. They all have little gimmicks they do," Hill said, adding an example of one of the lads stealing biscuits from a pan.
Hill has also thought out safety issues. "It should be a fairly Covid responsible event. People will be wearing costumes and masks. We will be able to go up the sidewalk and should be able to stay six feet apart with masks." He added that spectators who come downtown should also wear a mask and make sure to social distance.
"Definitely want to make this an annual thing," Hill said.