If you find yourself in NoDa on the evening of Saturday, Dec. 17, there’s a good chance you may come across a marauding gang of holiday demons. Follow that gang, for they are part of the NoDa Krampus Krawl, Charlotte’s most creepy holiday event but also one of the best local live music lineups you’ll find in the Queen City this month.
This year’s NoDa Krampus Krawl is spread across venues including Stu’s Barrel House, The Chamber at Wooden Robot, Evening Muse, NoDa Company Store and JackBeagle’s, with performances scheduled from bands like Faye, It’s Snakes, Evergone and Dad Bod.
The 2022 celebration marks eight years since the Krawl launched, so how did it come to find a home in NoDa? The origins of the infamous NoDa Krampus Krawl go back to a bonfire in the neighborhood in 2013. But first, what the hell is a Krampus, anyway?
The origins of Krampus
Krampus is a demon that originated in central Europe, where each year on Krampusnacht (Dec. 5) he assists St. Nicholas, but not by giving presents to the good little boys and girls, but by punishing the bad little children. Krampus doles out this punishment by hitting children with branches and sticks, and for the worst cases, taking them away in his basket to eat later.
The name comes from a mix of the Bavarian word krampn, which means dead or rotten; and the German kramp/krampen, meaning claw. He is a half-goat demon that is said to be the son of the Norse god of the underworld, Hel.
Krampus descriptions vary from region to region, but the main attributes remain the same. They typically have dark, coarse fur; one leg with a cloven hoof and another with a human foot; a long, forked tongue that typically stays out; fangs; and, most recognizably, horns. Krampus carries a wicker basket on his back, a bundle of thin sticks known as a rute or a switch, and is usually bedecked with chains, bells and shackles.
Krampusnacht lands on the night before the Feast of Saint Nicholas, at which time Krampus visits all the houses in a city/town/village to dish out his punishment. He sometimes accompanies Saint Nicholas himself, who cannot be bothered with naughty children. Saint Nicholas allows Krampus free rein to beat or take whomever he wants.
Over many years, Christianity became more and more popular in the regions, and the story of Krampus began to fall in line with those beliefs. The chains and basket were added to take on a more devilish quality, and since Krampus was already associated with winter festivities, it was an easy transition to incorporate him into Christmas traditions.
Krampus didn’t really become popular in America until the 21st century, when folks here began to tie it in with contemporary aesthetics.
“The pattern is different in Europe, but in America, it would be the punk aesthetic and the sort of impudent internet culture of memes,” wrote Al Ridenhour, author of The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas: Roots and Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil, explaining how Krampus became popular in the States.
“When images of the Krampus began circulating on the internet in the mid 2000s, that really set fire to it all. Those of us who came up in the punk milieu recognized the Krampus as the new savior of Christmas. We’d grown up chafing against this ideal of Christmas, a sentimental domestic idyll of family values and childhood wonder, and here we had this shocking figure who celebrated the holiday by beating children! He seemed to perfectly embody the rebellion we felt.”
Krampus Komes to NoDa
The origins of the infamous NoDa Krampus Krawl go back to 2013, when local resident Eric Hoenes attended a bonfire at the residence of his neighbors Todd and Betsy Hintzman, where Todd first discussed his desire to host an event with a Krampus theme.
Fast forward a few months to summer 2014, when Hoenes was having drinks with Erik Schalburg at Sanctuary Pub and another conversation started up about throwing a Krampus-themed event in the neighborhood. This time Hoenes decided to take action. At the next NoDa Neighborhood and Business Association meeting, he proposed his idea to the board and the neighborhood for approval, asking for $666 in expenses.
The board declined that request, but did give some money, and Hoenes was able to raise additional funds from other businesses around the neighborhood.
The inaugural Krampus Krawl took place on Dec. 13, 2014 (12/13/14) and only about 12 people dressed up that first year. It started at Heist Brewery before participants made their way through all the different bars in the neighborhood.
The Krampus handed out “I’m Naughty” or “I’m Nice” stickers along with some leftover Halloween candy. Baku Gallery hosted live painting and other Krampus-themed art displays at its stop along the Krawl. There was face-painting available at a few different areas from the Get Dead Crew — a tradition that will continue this year at Stu’s Barrel House beginning as part of the prep at 5:30 p.m. — and local bands Broken Napoleans and Evergone wrapped the night up with performances at JackBeagle’s.
The first event had components of live art, craft costume-making (papier- and fabric-mâché), live music, etc. Originally, a dog Krampus costume contest was planned alongside an adult costume contest, but both failed. Dogs were too afraid of the many Krampuses to participate and everyone was too drunk by the end of the night to fairly judge the human contest.
After the first year, it was certain that there would be a second year, but since then the event has had a few close calls and plenty of growing pains; local and national politics caused distress in 2016, COVID-19 shut the event down entirely in 2020, and a water heater malfunction last year shut down JackBeagle’s on the day of the event, causing a last minute scramble. Luckily, Stu’s Barrel House and The Chamber by Wooden Robot stepped up with less than 24 hours before start time and gave space to all the bands.
Through the years, the event has grown, but remains a small community event at its core.
“This is an event that I want people to walk into who don’t know anything about it,” Hoenes said. “I like to see the looks on their faces while they try to figure out what is happening.”
Hoenes credits the event’s longevity to the sense of community and spirit of togetherness that it inspires in him and his neighbors.
“I would not have put together a costume that first year if others weren’t willing to take part in a bad idea and make it a good one,” he admits.
The 8th annual NoDa Krampus Krawl Schedule
- 5:30 p.m. – Costume Prep w/ Get Dead Crew
- 6 p.m. – Ultralush
- 6:30 p.m. – Krampus Debut
- 7:30 p.m. – The End
- 6 p.m. – DJ Skid
- 7 p.m. – Plastic Flamingos
- 8:15 p.m. – Faye
- 9:30 p.m. – It’s Snakes
- 7:30 p.m. – Dad Bod
- 8:45 p.m. – Hipgnostic
- 10 p.m. – Evergone