Christmas Around the World
Well, just in time to scare people during the holidays, The film Krampus is out putting a sinister spin on the normally joyous holiday. The centuries old lore of Krampus originates from Austria and isn't necessarily purely evil. Yes, he is quite scary looking and he may go a bit far in punishments like eating bad little children, but he has decent intentions. As unusual as this tradition might be it is by far not the weirdest one I've read. Keep reading for the top 10 'non-traditional' Christmas traditions from around the world.
10. The Christmas Pickle (Germany)
Here's a not incredibly weird kind of fun holiday tradition from Germany (however, it seems that not a lot of Germans are aware of this tradition they supposedly started). Apparently, a pickle ornament is a must have on a Christmas tree, however it's the last one to go on. Then on Christmas morning the first child to find the pickle would have good luck for the rest of the year.
9. Yule Lads (Iceland)
This one isn't particularly weird as it kind of coincides with a stocking tradition. However, it's the intricate character details that make the Icelandic Yule Lads a bit odd. Starting on December 23, and for 13 days after Icelandic children place shoes on their window sill to receive presents from one of the 13 yule lads. Each yule lad has it's own personality and you may or may not be able to tell which one visited depending on what went missing. It seems that each yule lad likes to steal a particular item, sausage, pans, cows milk etc. If a child is good the yule lads would place goodies, and if they were bad instead of coal it would be a rotting potato.
8. La Befana (Italy)
Italy has a different kind of deliverer of toys and candies to good children. Instead of a jolly, red suited, white bearded man they have a homely, dedicated, hospitable, broom-flying witch! In the legend the Three Wise Men stopped to ask her for directions to Bethlehem and spent the night in her cottage. In the morning they left and invited her along, but feeling dedicated to her household chores, she declined. La Befana changed her mind but was too late, and so every Christmas she leave toys and goodies in stockings of good children and coal in bad children's in honor of her finally meeting Jesus. Also, instead of milk and cookies, wine and sausage is left instead.
7. Spider Web Ornaments (Ukraine)
Spiders tend to get a bad reputation, but if James and the Giant Peach or Charlotte's Web has taught us anything is that spiders are really not that bad. If you need more proof, look at the Ukrainian tradition of decorating their Christmas trees with spider webs. Apparently, long ago a widow lived in a dilapidated house with her children. Living in poverty, the family couldn't afford any decorations, let alone a tree. One day the children saw a pine cone fall and hoped it would one day become a tree they could decorate for the holiday. They tended to the seed to make sure it would grow. Eventually, from the cone came the tree, but still poor they couldn't decorate it. Sad, they cried at their predicament. A house spider who had taken up residence in the home heard the cries. On Christmas Eve, while everyone slept the spider went hard at work weaving intricate, beautiful, sparkling, snow white webs on the tree. Christmas morning the children woke up and they had never seen a more beautiful tree.
6. Kiviaq (Greenland)
We all have our favorite holiday foods, but none might be more strange than the Greenland 'delicacy' of Kiviaq. Kiviaq is fermented sea bird which is sealed up in seal skin with seal fat. The seal skin is sewn up and greased, then a large rock is placed on top to make sure sot a lot of air enters. The vessel is left to ferment for several months. The result is an extremely tender (so tender you can eat the bones and legs), odorous meal.
5. Highland Mortars (Germany/Bavaria)
Probably one of the loudest traditions, with not much to say, but lots to show. This Bavarian tradition may have stemmed from pagan times when loud noises were used to drive off negative spirits for the new year.
4. La Quema del Diablo (Guatemala)
Fire is always a part of the holidays weather it's a yule log, "chestnuts roasting on an open fire", the candles that are lit for silent night, or the menorah. Winter is full of fiery traditions. One of the most flame-filled traditions is in Guatemala when trash collected throughout the year is burned with a pyre of the devil (usually a pinata) symbolizing Mary's defeat over a demon and clearing the way to her feast.
3. Mari Lwyd (Wales)
Don't ask me how to pronounce this Wales tradition, I would just embarrass myself. This tradition however, whether I can pronounce it or not sounds terribly fun. A party of revelers dress up as a horse, which in many a lore is a symbol of health, wealth and fertility. In some is also known as a traveler between both the underworld and the living. Anyway, the horse party goes to peoples homes and pubs and introduces itself in song. Then in order to enter the establishment a battle of cunning is performed telling riddles and rhyming insults until either can't continue. No matter the winner the Mari Lwyd party enters with another song.
2. Caganer (Spain)
Or "the deficator" is a character added to Spain's, Portugal's, and Catalonia's nativity scenes. It's a little man, pooping (yes pooping) in the corner. Though the origin cannot be confirmed it is said that a farmer who didn't put the little pooping man in his scene would have a poor harvest next year.
1. Tio de Nadal (Catalonia)
I do not know what it is with Catalonia's obsession with pooping things during Christmas but I feel that the Tio de Nadal tradition takes the deficator one a bit further. Usually children ask for a puppy, or kitten or some fluffy lovable animal for a gift, but in Catalonia they get Tio de Nadal, the Christmas log. It's hollowed out and has a face sometimes given two little legs, hair, or a beret and during the December month is fed, and given a blanket to keep warm. Then, on Christmas eve, the family gets together, puts the log in the fireplace, and...no they don't light it on fire...they beat it commanding it to poop out Christmas presents while singing Christmas songs. Yup.
What are some of your family traditions whether they be strange or not?