Repeal Day and Krampus Night in Detroit

Repeal Day and Krampus Night in Detroit

Today, I had the realization that Repeal Day and Krampus Night both fall on December 5. This date is—OK, the events and parties that happen on this date are—kind of a big deal for many Detroiters.  Here’s the low-down:

What’s Repeal Day?

Flapper women drink in unison, ca. 1925. Image by Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis.
Flapper women drink in unison, ca. 1925. Image by Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis.

The 18th Amendment, which prohibited the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes”, was ratified in 1919.  A year later, in 1920, the enforcement of the amendment began, introducing a thirteen-year stretch of time we now know as Prohibition.  On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified which repealed the 18th Amendment.  From that point on, December 5 has been known as Repeal Day in the US.

Prohibition backfired quite vigorously, especially in Detroit.  The law failed to prevent the distribution of alcohol in the US.  In fact, the alcohol production and distribution industry went underground and was a boon for organized crime (e.g., the Purple Gang).  Given its proximity to Canada, where the production and distribution of alcohol was legal, rumrunners and bootleggers were able to produce and distribute alcohol much more easily than those in other states.  Both the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair were often used to illegally obtain alcohol from Canada—especially when they were frozen.  Some estimates indicate that three-quarters of the alcohol distributed in the US during Prohibition came through Detroit, which boasted more than 25,000 speak-easys.

What’s Krampus Night?

St. Nick's counterpart, Krampus.
St. Nick’s counterpart, Krampus.

Krampus is St. Nicholas’ counterpart.  They’re pals engaged in an annual good cop/bad cop routine.  Krampus is a scary, horned devil of a character.  In Germany, where Christmas celebrations start in early December, Krampus is part of a centuries-old tradition.  While St. Nicholas rewards “good” children with sweets and gifts, Krampus punishes naughty children and takes them from their homes to his lair. Terrifying, right?  In this tradition, December 6 is St. Nicholas Day.  The night before (that’d be December 5), is Krampus Night.

In recent years, cities across the US have embraced Krampus Night as a temporary antidote to what some people believe is at least a month of overly-saccharine music, decorations, and greetings.  Detroit is certainly no exception.  This year’s Krampus Night celebration is Detroit’s fourth.

How does one celebrate?

There’s so much fun to be had on December 5!

Illegal alcohol, discovered by Prohibition agents, pours out of a storefront in Detroit. Photo courtesy of Wayne State University's Reuther Library.
Illegal alcohol, discovered by Prohibition agents, pours out of a storefront in Detroit. Photo courtesy of Wayne State University’s Reuther Library.

Rejoice in your right to imbibe:

  • Labatt is hosting a Flappers and Gangsters party at the Majestic beginning at 9 PM.
  • Bring your fedora to Sugar House where they will hold their annual Repeal Day party with “Havana-inspired cocktails and attire.”
  • Get a cocktail and throw your own party at one of these fine establishments.

 

Revel in a Krampus Night tradition:

Krampus Night cookie! Photo courtesy of Krampus Night Detroit.
Krampus Night cookie! Photo courtesy of Krampus Night Detroit.

There’s a bunch more Krampus celebrating which will take place in Hamtramck on December 5, including photo ops with Krampus himself, flash mob caroling, and impromptu parades.  Check out the schedule.

What if it’s after December 5?

If you’re not reading this until it’s too late, don’t fret!  You can celebrate the end of Prohibition any day at your favorite establishment or in your very own home and Krampus will be back next year!  Till then, make sure to sign up for Krampus Night Detroit’s newsletter, and follow them on social media—and get your costume ready for next year.

Do you celebrate Repeal Day and/or Krampus Night? How? Tell us your stories!

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Hi, I'm Shannon and I'm proud to be from Michigan. Some things I enjoy: Cooking, craft beer, most kinds of music, travel, learning things, tattoos, driving, being on boats, water in general, being out of my comfort zone, history not printed in books (the real stories...), cats and dogs, imperfection, girls and boys, live (loud) rock 'n' roll shows, deep voices, smart people, sarcasm, dry wit, consideration, thunder, nerdiness, trying to explain complicated concepts in digestible ways, bourbon, stream-of-consciousness writing, Ford trucks from the 80s, people with useful skills, the color blue.