If the idea of pulling together a Krampus suit seems daunting, you might consider dressing as one of the other figures traditionally associated with the Krampus’ appearance. Before Krampuses herded together for the public Krampus Run or Krampuslauf, the devilish figure was part of a small costumed party that would visit houses of friends, neighbors and relatives on December 6, St. Nicholas Day. These groups would consist of roughly three to six Krampuses, and three of the four following characters.
Not to be confused with Santa Claus, the theatrically whiskered saint is dressed more or less as a medieval bishop (try “pope” or “cardinal” if you’re searching for similar cheap costumes). Along with his staff, he carries a big book in which are written children’s names and deeds from the previous year. His cape, stole, and miter are usually red, but can be gold or other colors.
The Basket Carrier
As opposed to the “bad” basket the Krampus carries to swoop up naughty children, this character’s basket is full of goodies for good kids (and likely a flask for the troupe). As servant, to the Bishop, he carries the basket and generally a lantern and is costumed in traditional wool or leather mountain garb accentuated with a few rustic exaggerations — a gnarled stick for a cane, perhaps some pine cones or bark on his cap, and bit of moss woven into his beard. His face may also be smudged with soot. The impression is somewhat intimidating or at least eccentrically backwoodsy. The availability of with various readymade “Hillbilly” or “Oktoberfest” wardrobe elements might make him an easier costuming target than Krampus. We could use a number of these characters in our Krampus Runs to help guide the Krampuses (a species universally hindered by small eye-holes and poor eyesight) as well as other interactions with the crowd.
In some cases, costumed angels carry St. Nicholas’ gift basket, but usually their function is more symbolic — a bit of divinity to balance the infernal presence of Krampus. In practical terms, the angel also provides a more feminine role for women wanting to take part as well as a comforting presence for frightened kids. Bundling against the Alpine cold limits the gracefulness and imagination of the typical angel costume (below), but in Los Angeles, the climate is on our side. Go crazy!
Witches were never part of the house visitations described above, but they have found their way into some European Krampus runs. While the Krampus is traditionally associated with St. Nicholas Day and the evening before (12/5,6), his devilish character comes from an older pagan tradition involving supernatural characters appearing around year’s end. These characters, known as Perchten, are ruled by an ambivalent goddess called Frau Percht or Perchta, who is sometimes portrayed (under Christianizing influence) as a witch. German and Austrian witches look different from the American version as you can see from these pictures.