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Chicago Krampus Fest Celebrates the Demonic Christmas Devil

By Casey Cora | December 4, 2014 5:51am

BRIDGEPORT — Think of Krampus as the anti-Santa.

Whereas jolly ol' St. Nick brings treats to good kids on Saturday, Krampus — the mythical hairy, hooved and horned beast rooted in Alpine folklore — uses chains to snatch away the bad ones.

While that might sound like a terrible reason to party, Krampus is steadfastly celebrated in parts of Europe, with elaborate parades and festivals where costumed beasts stalk the streets and startle the townfolk. 

Casey Cora says the party is just for adults:

The festivities have taken place in a handful of American cities, but it hasn't really caught on yet in Chicago, unless you count the similarly named, kid-friendly vendor fair at Martyrs or husband-and-wife artists Catie Olson and Eric Brown's shindig at their Avondale apartment last year.

That's why Olson and her friend Rebecca Hinsdale are bringing the city's first larger-scale Krampus fests to Bridgeport for a party that takes place from 8 p.m. to midnight at Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219 S. Morgan St. The party is for ages 21 and older.

"It's surprising that Chicago hasn't jumped on it," said Olson, a multimedia artist and DJ. "It's a fun thing to celebrate. In a strange way, when there's costumes, it's a time when you get to be another character and I think that's exciting for people. I think it brings out a whole other element."

Called Krampusnacht, translated as Krampus Night, Friday's party includes a costume contest, servings of glogg, craft beer, Krampus-themed art exhibits and a "switching station," where brave partygoers can get spanked by beasts clutching birch sticks, a nod to Krampus lore.

All of it's designed to take the merry right out of Christmas, but that doesn't make Krampus any less fun.

"We are mostly inundated with Santa Claus and commercialism and consumerism and a lot of that Christmas mumbo jumbo. Krampus is a tongue-in-cheek way of taking a tradition of making children afraid to do bad things and reclaiming it as adults," Hinsdale said.

Also included in the festivities are a DJ set by Olson — expect "rock 'n' roll, only slightly aggressive" — a photo "lair," vending from The Salsa Truck and the chance to break plates and dishes, because ... wait, why, exactly? 

"Adding more chaos to the scene is very welcome," Olson said. 

Friday's party could very well be the start of something larger in the city, but don't expect a European-style demon parade marching down Morgan Street just yet, although Olson says "that would be a really awesome goal."

Admission to Friday's party is $5 for the costume-clad and $10 for everyone else. Both prices include one drink ticket.

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