The Santa-free guide to celebrating the holidays in Baltimore

Anyone can celebrate the holidays with a tree, a merry old elf or a customized rendition of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” But celebrating with a cloven-hoofed demon, a death metal band or kosher Chinese food? Now that takes some doing.

So, for those who have had enough of “The Nutcracker” (what’s a sugarplum, anyway?), “A Christmas Carol” (hey, at least Bob Cratchit has a job) and red-nosed reindeer (so the poor caribou has a cold, big deal), here are a half-dozen ways to mark the holidays that extend well beyond the traditional. Even Ebenezer Scrooge might find some of these celebrations a little out-there. Then again, if Scrooge is your role model, you’ve got problems that extend beyond even the happiest of holidays.

Dec. 7-8: Krampus: A Haunted Christmas

If you’re a little cynical about Christmas, Krampus is your guy. A cloven-hoofed (usually) half-demon with horns and a long forked tongue, Krampus is the anti-Saint Nick: His mission is not to reward children for being good, but to punish those who aren’t. Usually that means a spanking, although some traditions suggest worse fates for the misbehaving. Let’s just say Krampus is not a nice guy.

Which is why he (it?) is the perfect centerpiece for the Christmas-themed haunted house at Eastpoint Mall’s Bennett’s Curse, one of the area’s premier fright factories.

“Basically, it’s Halloween meets Christmas,” says Allan Bennett, who owns the Baltimore County attraction with his wife, Jill. “We’ll have some crazy elves, obviously we’ll have some Krampus characters throughout. It’ll be a lot of fun.”

What it won’t be, Bennett promises, is especially gruesome or gory or so brutally anti-Christmas that it could ruin your holidays forever. “We’re careful not to have evil Santas or things like that,” he says, “and certainly no religious overtones.”

For instance, he says, the residents of the haunted house’s Ravenbrook Asylum have taken over the decorating for the holidays. And what they’ve come up with isn’t exactly merry.

“People are going to get the true Bennett’s Curse experience,” Bennett promises. Although leavened, perhaps, with a touch of humor. “If you see a zombie wearing a dirty elf hat, that certainly lightens it a little bit, takes a little bit of the edge off and adds a little bit of the comedic.

“But,” he adds by way of reassurance, “it’s still a zombie.”

7 p.m.-10 p.m. both days, $35-$60. Bennett’s Curse is located at 7875A Eastpoint Mall; enter the mall via Entrance 6 next to Gabe’s. bennettscurse.com.

Dec. 8: Baltimore Krampuslauf

For a more benign view of Krampus, check out this annual slog through Hampden. Organizer Rob Hatch, a cameraman and producer who organizes the 48-hour film contests that annually have local filmmakers throwing together films on the fly, said he was looking for a different way to celebrate the holidays. This is what he came up with — the chance for a few dozen people, including some dressed up as Krampus him(it?)self, to walk the streets, maybe sing some songs (though probably not “Silent Night” or anything so pious), have a few drinks and revel in the season.

“People make up their own costumes, it’s a real DIY aesthetic,” says Hatch. “Some of the costumes are very frightening, some are whimsical. It’s just so cool, how many costumes, how many different styles, there are.”

Oh yeah, and — this being Krampus and all — there will be spanking stations along the way. Nothing too violent, of course, but those who have been naughty must be punished for their deeds. It’s all in good fun, Hatch assures.

The festiveness is set to start at 3 p.m. at De Kleine Duivel bar, 3602 Hickory Ave. The march itself usually starts around 4, as revelers walk across 36th Street before ending on the Christmas showcase that is 34th Street, where all the bright lights and holiday decorations would doubtless cause the real Krampus considerable pain.

“It’s a party, but it’s a family party as well,” Hatch assures. “It’s a happening, a be-in, practically. … It’s not totally toned down, but there’s no bullying people, no hitting people. We just sing Krampus carols and have a very nice time.”

Free. “2018 Baltimore Krampuslauf" on facebook.com.

Dec. 15: ‘A Murray Little Christmas’

Outrageous. Flamboyant. Bawdy. Bet your father’s Christmas was never like this.

Murray Hill has been providing New Yorkers with the Christmas of their fevered dreams for years. These “infamous cocktail parties” sound like just the thing to make the very idea of a silent night seem oh-so-passe.

The show “provides a safe space to be in denial and enjoy the holidays like a middle-aged kid,” Murray, a larger-than-life personality affectionately known as “Mr. Show Biz,” writes in an email from his home base in New York. “I’m giving the gift of showbiz, laughter and burlesque to Creative Alliance.”

Audience members can expect cheesy sing-alongs, all sorts of wacky skits (courtesy of Hot Toddy Burlesque), guest appearances by Santa and Rudolph (the mind reels at the thought of what this could entail) and a heartfelt rendition of your host’s signature song, “Have Yourself a Murray Little Christmas” (with tissues and/or earplugs available upon request).

It all sounds so deliciously heartwarming, doesn’t it? “It’s my job to make the fine people of Baltimore forget about their troubles,” Murray writes, adding, “my holiday show is about feeling hopeful and spreading good cheer … at least for the length of the show.”

Oh yes, there’ll be an ugly sweater contest, too, since “the last time I was in Baltimore for the holidays, I was blown away by the amount of ugly Christmas sweaters,” Murray writes. The winner, he promises, will get to sit in Santa’s lap.

As we said, the mind reels. …

7 p.m. and 10 p.m. at the Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Ave. in Highlandtown. $22-$28. creativealliance.org.

Dec. 19-20: ‘A John Waters Christmas’

Baltimore’s most elfin degenerate has been celebrating his own particular brand of Christmas for years — he really is a big fan of the season, John Waters insists — and these comedy shows have become a big-time tradition in these parts (and elsewhere, since he tours around the country with it every year).

“It’a a comedy sleigh ride through lunacy that will help to get you through a politically troubled time,” Waters said late last month as he prepared to take the show on its national tour, including stops in San Francisco, Boston, New Orleans and New York. And the best part? Afterward, “you get to go home and not argue with your family.”

Past shows (he’s been doing this for more than 12 years) have included Waters riffing on all sorts of stuff — presents, living creches, his good friend Divine, Christmas music (there’s a CD compilation of his favorite holiday songs called “A John Waters Christmas” that should be a required possession), Christmas movies, parents. One never knows what the show will include, but rest assured that it’ll be outrageous, in the merriest sort of way.

“There’s something for everybody,” Waters assures, “if you’re a little off balance.”

Performances are set for 8 p.m. Dec. 19 at Baltimore Soundstage, 124 Market Place, $44-$110 (baltimoresoundstage.com) and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20 at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. in Alexandria, Va., $55 (birchmere.com)

Dec. 24: Comedy Cantonese

For more than a decade, the folks at Magooby’s Joke House have been offering a Christmas Eve holiday alternative, aimed at all the non-Christians who won’t be preparing for St. Nick’s arrival.

“It’s a become a real local Jewish tradition,” says comic Marc Unger, a frequent performer at the Timonium comedy club owned by his brother, Andrew. “A lot of people have been coming here for years. We’ve been doing it so long, there are people who were too young to go when their parents went, and now they go.”

The evening includes kosher and non-kosher (or, as Unger puts it, “I don’t give a crap”) options, with food provided by either Timonium’s Szechuan House (non-kosher buffet) or the Royal Restaurant on Reisterstown Road (kosher). The laughs will be provided by New York-based comic Steve Marshall and host Raanan Hershberg.

As Mogooby’s puts it, prepare yourselves for “a night of Jewish humor, booze, and Chinese food.”

“The doors open, people come in, there’s a buffet line — you know, there’s always complaining because there’s not enough egg rolls,” says Unger, who’s headlined the show a few times. “They can be a rough crowd,” he adds with a laugh.

Doors open at 6:45 p.m., with the buffet commencing at 7:30 p.m. Showtime is 9 p.m. at Magooby’s, 9603 Deereco Road. $40-$45 ($30 for the show only). magoobys.com.

Dec. 26: Fourth Annual Canadian Boxing Day

The idea was simple, says Eric Rhodes. Some bands were coming to town and looking for an excuse to play. What they needed was a date and a catchy name.

A little brainstorming later, and the idea of celebrating Canadian Boxing Day was born. Even though the concert, now in its fourth year, has nothing to do with boxing or Canada or even the holidays. It’s just a handy excuse for a bunch of groups to get together and play.

“I mean, what happens on the day after Christmas?” asks Rhodes, bass player and singer for the Baltimore band Genevieve. As for the name? “We just figured, what could be the funniest possible thing?” he says.

For the record, Boxing Day is a federal holiday in Canada and traditionally involved businesses handing out presents, or boxes, to their employees. Nowadays, it’s mostly an excuse for some big-time shopping. Not that this Canadian Boxing Day has anything to do with presents, or Canada, or even shopping.

“It’s just something to do the day after Christmas,” Rhodes explains quasi-helpfully. Besides Genevieve, which plays what Rhodes labels “experimental death metal” (“It’s weird, it’s loud, and we play fast,” he offers by way of elaboration), this year’s lineup includes Manqué (ritual ambient music), Behead Lucifer (black metal), Dialetheist (scary industrial ambient) and Eternal Life Debt (electronic blasphemy).

“If you’re in town, here’s something to do,” Rhodes offers, noting that the evening’s festivities usually draw a crowd of between 50 and 100. “You do get the random passerby who says, ‘Oh, there’s something going on.’ Sometimes they’ll stop in; usually, they leave. But that doesn’t bother me in the least.”

As the man said, what else is there to do the day after Christmas?

7 p.m. at The Depot, 1728 N. Charles St. $5. depotbaltimore.com.

ckaltenbach@baltsun.com

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