Last week’s Christmas parade in Houma marked neither the first nor last time a holiday event has caused little children to cry. Ever since children were made to sit on the laps of department store Santas, some have tearfully and loudly balked, terrified by the stranger in the bright red suit.
The Krampus, which appeared to the horror of many at the parade, has Christmas context of a sort. Born of legends that predate the spread of Christianity in Europe, as much a harbinger of the holiday in some parts of the globe as the Christmas tree, the creature is a reminder of long-lost winter traditions and practices, including the celebration of Yule.
Before there was ever a Christmas there was a Yule. There was in many cultures the frightening off of evil winter spirits related to the season. An argument can be made that the monstrous creature is less a threat to Christmas than the proliferation of decorations and department store ads that once were leashed until Thanksgiving, but now appear shortly after Halloween. In a philosophical sense, the appearance of a Krampus could be interpreted as the embodiment of evil that comes with rampant commercialization, or of the continued human resistance to practice of the angelic “peace on earth and good will toward men” message.
The horned, fur-clad punisher takes an extreme approach to the “naughty but nice” concept. Santa denies gifts to children who are naughty. The Krampus, according to legend, goes a step further by kidnapping, imprisoning and in some versions of the legend even eating the recalcitrant.
For all the children who cried on Main Street there were many people who enjoyed the presence of the creature, and appreciated the artwork that birthed the effectively horrific costuming.
The folks who wrought the Krampus on Houma’s parade had no discernable ill intent. Cultural enhancement, the introduction of a legend related to the holiday season, was their stated goal. That and having fun, which they say they surely did.
The Krampus, by all accounts, did not violate the rules set down by Terrebonne Parish for Christmas parade participants.
Other displays did. Twerking dance teams gyrating to booming beats of highly amplified music whose ribald lyrics have no relation to Christmas are an example.
Accepting all of the above, the fact remains that children cried, and a Christmas parade is not an event that should cause children to cry or cringe.
Cultural broadening is a good goal, but a Christmas parade is not the proper venue. As some spectators interviewed by The Times noted, things that are appropriate for Mardi Gras or the Rougarou festival are not appropriate for this parade.
Anne Picou, who heads the parish department overseeing the parade, has acknowledged that the Krampus was a mis-step, and that the suggestive dance and booming non-Christmas music, which has grown steadily year by year, are not desirable elements of Houma’s homage to the Christmas season.
The parade has become a victim of its own ever-growing success. Broader participation of various groups and businesses has come with a price.
Houma’s Krampus angst points to a far larger problem of culture creep at its Christmas parade.
But then there is the question of who shall police parade participation. Rules for the parade, promulgated when it was a much smaller event, require review. Anne Picou has stated that, and has already reached out to the incoming parish administration, with the idea of a committee that can address the problem being established, which is a good step toward repair.
Many options can be explored toward the end of keeping the parade true to this community’s well-established cultural roots. Among them is turning over the entire event to a non-profit or a consortium of churches, without the organizational involvement of government, and its constitutional constraints.
Parish President-elect Gordon Dove stated emphatically on these pages that there is no room for a Krampus at Houma’s holiday fest.
We whole-heartedly agree. •