Krampus 'parade,' endearingly creepy Christmas drive-through, set for Dec. 5 in New Orleans

Krewe named for St. Nicholas' goat-horned counterpart

Weeks before New Orleans learned that City Hall would not permit Mardi Gras season parades in 2021, the Krewe of Krampus was already planning a COVID-safe alternative to its annual procession.

This year, the organization has conceived a drive-through version of its Christmas season walking parade, this time around the long, horseshoe-shaped driveway at the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission headquarters in the Milneburg area. For the Dec. 5 event, the roughly 100 krewe members will be temperature-checked, masked, gloved and socially distanced. The audience will roll slowly past in sealed cars. And if all goes as planned, the krewe will have helped solve the problem of how to parade when you can’t parade.

Though little known in the United States, St. Nicolas has a devilish, goat-horned counterpart known as Krampus, whose goal is to scare naughty kids back to the straight and narrow. Or so the folks in the frosty, Alpine regions of Europe will tell you. St. Nick provides treats; Krampus doles out lumps of coal. St. Nick is surrounded by devoted helpers; Krampus hangs out with murderous witches. You get the picture.

Krampus member Mike Esordi, director of web strategy for the University of New Orleans, says he loves weird characters from folklore, ones such as Big Foot and, yes, Krampus. So in 2017, Esordi, a transplant from Detroit, enlisted pals to help present a parade, an endearingly creepy spectacle that meandered the narrow streets of Bywater. Over the next three years, the size of the krewe and the crowd grew.

When the Krewe of Boo! Halloween parade was cancelled in September, Esordi said he knew the writing was on the wall. He and other Krampus members started dreaming up a substitute. Instead of canceling, the krewe decided to reverse the parading process. The 2020 parade won’t pass by; the spectators will.

“I like to think we are an extremely creative krewe,” Esordi said. “We’re never going to turn down a creative challenge. This COVID stuff is an opportunity for us to try something different, to explore.”

It didn’t hurt that Esordi’s wife, Diana, a microbiologist with some background in contagion prevention, helped conceive the safety measures.

Esordi doesn’t assert that the drive-by parade idea was especially revolutionary. In fact, he thinks it’s pretty obvious. But the Krewe of Krampus hatched the site-specific plan even before City Park announced that Celebration in the Oaks was returning to its long-ago, drive-through mode.

The 2020 Krampus “parade” will pass through a wintery forest, where spectators will be offered the opportunity to take a path toward goodness or not so goodness. (Spoiler alert: The fun stuff is on the not-so-good path.)

Along the way, visitors will encounter naughty Mardi Gras celebrants, St. Nick, Germanic witches known as Fraus, assorted folkloric creatures called Y’ules (pronounced you alls), the strangely pastoral Krewe of Fae, The Silent Sisters of Shhhh who are known for stealing souls and other holiday horrors. But have no fear, for actual Marines will be present to keep the hellishness from getting out of hand - and also to accept gifts for their Toys For Tots charity.

Unfortunately, the krewe won’t be able to pass out lumps of coal as members customarily do.

The 10-minute or more drive-through will be open Dec. 5 from 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. on Dec. 5 at 5420 Franklin Ave. Timed tickets cost $10 and are available on the Krewe of Krampus website.

NOLA — DOUG MACCASH contributed to this report.

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