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Most are familiar with the story of Saint Nicholas, aka Santa Claus, and the nine reindeer, sleigh and oversize gift-loaded bag that correspond with this Christmastime figure. But how about the devilish counterpart of St. Nick — Krampus — whose appearance and Yuletide intentions are, well, not quite the same?

Says Sister Tilda NexTime, abbess and president of San Francisco’s Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, “Not a lot of people know who Krampus is. St. Nicholas is the one that gives gifts and good things to children who have behaved during the year. But the naughty children: Krampus is the one who takes care of them.”

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On Saturday, Krampuses from throughout the Bay Area were invited to participate in the third annual Krampus Pageant, hosted by The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and San Francisco Krampus, a group dedicated to overseeing Krampus events in the city. The pageant, held outdoors in the back patio of Mission District’s El Rio, served as both an alternative festive event during the holidays as well as a means to highlight queer culture and artistic expression.

“We are celebrating this other side of Christmas and just trying to find out who the naughtiest [ones] are in the San Francisco nightlife,” explains Sister Tilda.

The Krampus Pageant started at 4 p.m. and included an emcee, onstage performances, a live DJ, audience participation and an esteemed panel of judges tasked with evaluating the Krampus contestants, each of whom had quintessential horns on their heads.

According to Sister Tilda, “They [the judges] are looking for something scary and spooky that represents the dark side of Christmas.”

Judges KaiKai Bee Michaels, Olivia Hart, Race Bannon and Tom Nelson sat behind a table facing the stage and asked the three SF Krampus 2021 hopefuls some difficult questions during the Q&A portion of the pageant: “What would you change about Christmas?” “How would you take this contest and make it bigger for next year?” “What is the perfect branch to spank someone with?”

Each contestant gave a thoughtful and funny response; one (Bella Badass) even gave the judges a snow globe. 

After the judges deliberated, emcee Gary Virginia took to the stage to announce the winner of the 2021 San Francisco Krampus Pageant: Menstrual Krampus, from Oakland. 

After the judges deliberated, the three Krampus Pageant contestants — from left, Martin Vore Yule Cat, Bella Badass and Menstrual Krampus — returned to the stage for the announcement of the winner. (J.L. Odom/Bay City News)

And while Krampus is not a gift-giver, the pageant winner received a special effects makeup gift package from Kryolan Cosmetics. Additional gift-giving came in the form of donations from Saturday’s event — $10-$20 was the suggested donation per person (though no one was turned away because of a lack of funds). These proceeds will go toward True Colors United, an organization co-founded by Cyndi Lauper that aims to end homelessness among LGBTQ+ youth. 

A glance around at the crowd in El Rio’s backyard area on Saturday evening, along with the audible cheers, laughter and clapping, solidified the notion that though COVID-19 is a lingering circumstance this holiday season, people can still come together and celebrate the good … and, in this case, the charmingly bad.