This year’s lauf, like everything else about this year, was markedly different. No pre-lauf party with food and drink, for one thing – replaced instead by masked and socially distanced prep in a more spacious venue. At least our costumes had masks built in!
The other big difference being the almost-empty city we paraded through. Gone were the crowds of revellers downtown, drunkenly cheering us on. But it also seemed that those few folks we did pass (mostly those eating at outdoor restaurant tables) responded even more excitedly to our arrival. When we did our special chant for this year, they were obviously feeling its message as much as we were:
2020 Go Away!
2020 You Can’t Stay!
2020 We Are Through!
2020 We Banish You!
Because this year, we got a real taste of what it must have meant to the guisers of old, using monstrous visages to drive the dark away – it wasn’t just a symbol to them. Winter brought harsh, possibly even deadly conditions. Expelling the spirits of cold and hunger was an essential service on behalf of the community. And with almost everyone – in our group, in our city, in the world – having suffered to some degree in 2020, it felt just as crucial to drive out this annus horribilis with extreme prejudice.
My costume this year was inspired by the iron-nosed Perchta and Baba Yaga, and the beaked schnabelperchten of mumming tradition. The beak is actually painted with a special iron pigment made from melted down firearms, which seemed appropriate to such dark business. I wore an entire shaggy black sheepskin on my shoulders and carried scissors and a bell-decked staff to lean on with skeletal arms.
A few more portraits of our mumming crew: