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?
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 On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified which repealed the 18th Amendment.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?
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!
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:
- Check out some local art at the Krampus Bazaar at Hamtramck’s Atomic Café beginning at 5 PM.
- Also beginning at 5 PM at the Atomic Café is a silent auction, 100% of the proceeds of which benefit Burners Without Borders Detroit and Toys for Tots Detroit. While you’re feeling charitable, bring a toy and/or canned food. All donations will be delivered directly to these two organizations.
- At the Atomic Café, you’ll also have a chance to see an exhibition of “deranged holiday art” at Wreck the Halls.
- Christmahanakwanza is a variety show which will take place around the corner from the Atomic Café at Paycheck’s Lounge. Doors at 9, show at 10.
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!