Ah, the holidays. The perfect time for traditions of decorating with bright lights and strands of garland, gathering neighbors for caroling … Or in NoDa’s case, scaring the socks off of unsuspecting Charlotteans visiting the Arts District.
According to an old German tradition, Santa knowing if you’ve been naughty or nice goes much deeper than just a lump of coal in your stocking. Instead, a creepy character called Krampus comes out on December 5 to grab bad children and take them back to the underworld.
In modern times, this anti-fairy tale has turned into a tradition of drunken men dressing up as devils and chasing people through the streets of Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. In the past few years, the anti-Santa trend has even caught on in the United States with themed parties, club nights and bar crawls.
And in Charlotte, hosting a creepy anti-Santa bar crawl could only be a job for NoDa.
For the past five years and counting, for one Saturday night each December, the Krampus Krawl has taken over NoDa.
“I love doing it every year,” said NoDa News Editor, Lauren Schalburg. “It’s thrilling to bring terrifying joy to unsuspecting restaurant and bar patrons. You feel a part of something larger: an age-old tradition with a modern twist, just one monster in a band of monsters — most of them complete strangers.”
When and where will the Krampus Krawl take place?
This year’s Krawl will take place on Saturday, December 8. It will begin at 5:30 p.m., starting at Canvas Tattoo & Art Gallery. An 8-foot-tall guy (with the aid of stilts) in a St. Nicholas costume will unleash the Krampuses, and the neighborhood bar crawl will begin.
After leaving Canvas, participants will meander through the streets of NoDa, following the tall St. Nicholas. Several business are participating, including: Billy Jack’s Shack, Blended Bartique, Haberdish, Heist Brewery, Growlers Pourhouse, Jack Beagle’s, NoDa 101, NoDa Company Store, Salud, Sanctuary Pub, Smelly Cat Coffee, Stu’s Barrel House and The Blind Pig. Live bands, DJs and storytellers will all be part of the evening.
“We participate in Krampus Krawl each year because of the great horde of naughty party-goers that come out and have way too much fun,” said Jack Beagle’s general manager Mike McGuire. “It’s all about the folks that get into character for the event and the people that come out to watch and partake in that good Krampus energy.”
Want to be a part of the fun, but don’t know how to dress like a Krampus?
NoDa Neighborhood and Business Association Krampus Committee member Matt Alvis said to come as you are, and you’ll get a free pair of horns or a halo at one of the sponsor’s establishments. Additionally, the NoDa Neighborhood and Business Association hires a face painter to help amp up your creepy factor — it’s free; just bring cash for a tip.
“Krampus Krawl is the epitome of NoDa,” NoDa Company Store co-owner Joey Hewell said. “Its uniqueness to the hood — and the fact that it was created by folks who live here as a fun way to get into the holiday spirit — shows just how special NoDa really is.”
In 2014, NoDa NBA member Eric Hoenes read National Geographic’s article about Krampus and decided it would be a perfect fit for the Arts District. That first year, he said 13 Krampuses showed up. The next year, that number doubled. The third year, it grew to 50 Krampuses or so — and last year, they saw even more.
“We see this as part of the continuation of NoDa as the Arts District,” Hoenes said. “Part of the idea is to take the arts into the streets and the spaces people are occupying anyway. Art isn’t just a static thing you hang on walls, but it’s something that happens when people get creative. We want to bring a little bit of the sense of wonder.”
The last stop of the party is at Jack Beagle’s beginning at 9:30 p.m., with live music by Evergone. St. Nicholas will then send all the Krampuses back to the underworld — until next year.