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Krampus Krashes Khristmas

Washington town loses name of 'Christmas' in holiday festival, gains participation of Alpine Yule demons
Krampus Krashes Khristmas

Christmas in the small town of Leavenworth, Washington, is a bit different this year:

Santa and Mrs. Claus, the Grinch, snowmen and elves fill the streets of Leavenworth during the holiday season. Some are part of the city’s official holiday programming, while others are visitors simply eager to get into the holiday spirit.

During one weekend earlier this month, a group of horned half-goat, half-human creatures dressed in animal fur robes joined other holiday cosplayers in the streets of this Bavarian-themed town.

The bells around their waists marked their arrival, as they walked the streets of downtown Leavenworth. They were silent, letting their elaborate, dramatic wooden masks and costumes speak for themselves.

The members of Krampus Seattle have been introducing Washington holiday revelers to the tradition celebrated in Germany, Austria and several Eastern European countries for the past several years. According to the tradition, Krampus walks through the streets to terrify children into being good before St. Nicholas’ arrival the following day.

Krampus really is an Alpine tradition. But not everybody in Leavenworth is happy about it there. A local Catholic businessman and Knights of Columbus member says that the Chamber of Commerce told the Catholics to take a hike. Excerpt:

Benjamin Herreid, a Leavenworth, WA, restaurant owner and member of the Knights of Columbus, says the town’s Chamber of Commerce told the Knights their booth would not be included in this year’s public festivities. The exclusion of the Knights was itself disturbing, but the Chamber of Commerce had something much worse in store, Herreid reports.

“Our booth has been a feature of the Christmas lighting for the past 30+ years,” Herreid wrote in a Facebook post. After the Chamber inexplicably turned the Knights away, Herreid and his business partner “made space on our restaurant’s patio for the K of C sausage booth,” whose proceeds go toward the mentally and physically handicapped, as well as the “spiritually handicapped (all of us),” he wrote.

Herreid said that while the exclusion of the Knights could have been “unintentional,” it “seems to illustrate the priorities of those leading the charge in this town.” After a recent election and the introduction of COVID restrictions, officials “rebranded” the longstanding local custom of “Christmas Lighting,” axing the word “Christmas” from the title and renaming it “Village of Lights,” Herreid told CatholicVote Monday.

After that and the kerfuffle with the Knights of Columbus, Herreid began to see a pattern. But nothing prepared him for what happened next.

On the opening weekend of the town’s public holiday celebrations, “the Chamber had the audacity/naivety/stupidity to kick off this non-holiday by inviting Krampus Seattle,” a “group of demonic horned half-goat cosplayers,” to “give speeches at our pavilion and pub crawl throughout the downtown terrifying our children,” Herreid wrote on Facebook.

In this story, the Chamber of Commerce in the Bavarian-themed village responds. Excerpt:

For years, the Knights had a booth selling sausages at the Leavenworth Christmas festival. But this year, the chamber did not get access to Front Street’s right of way – this being the main drag through town – as it is now closed to traffic.

All of that boiled down to the Knights not getting a booth because it needed both electric power and water, and such a combination was not available, says the chamber. It’s complicated setting up everything from the winter market to the carolers to the live music.

And:

Regarding the name change for the festivities, the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce said the “Christmas Lighting Festival” title had been used for years on the first three weekends in December. Then, each Saturday and Sunday there was a “flip the switch” to turn on the light displays.

The chamber said 20,000-plus people would visit, all “looking for parking spots that did not exist” and causing “traffic backups for miles.” Now the lights stay on every day to spread out the crowds, and the organization says “a rebranding was necessary.” So, the new name: “Village of Lights.”

What do you think? Krampus is an authentic Alpine tradition, and that includes Bavaria, so the town is not pulling this out of nowhere. On the other hand, I would not want to see that on the streets at Christmastime, and especially wouldn’t want my little children to see it. I don’t believe the Chamber of Commerce’s excuse for changing the name of the Christmas lights festival. It’s the same de-Christianization mentality that leads anxious schools and other institutions to rebrand it “Winter Festival” or “Holiday Festival”. I can easily see how welcoming Yuletide demons on the opening weekend of a festival that for the first time gets rid of the name “Christmas” would upset people.

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