15 Strange & Insane Xmas Traditions
Weird Xmas Celebrations
Have you ever wondered how the rest of the world celebrates Xmas, and whether their traditions are very different to that of the U.S.A. or U.K.? Well here are whole host of these Global Christmas traditions for you, feel free to share them with your relatives over the Yuletide and “thank god” your Xmas is pretty normal.
First lets take a look at the origins of Christmas, before the Christians adopted the end of year Celebration it was actually only known for being the winter solstice – 25th of December, and pagans would celebrate the return of the sun, that’s sun .. not son. It was to bare witness to the suns return and rejoice that it had not been conquered by the dark nights and in many ways its return from the dead. They called this the ‘Birthday of the Unconquered’ and it bares many similarities to the birth of Jesus on Christmas day.
Amsterdam – Black Peter
I remember seeing this when i visited Amsterdam last year, there were 100’s of children dressed up as Black Peter with blacked-up faces, which was pretty bizarre. Black Peter is associated with St Nicholas in much the same way as Krampus is, he is the sidekick of Santa Claus, and would give out coal and beat children who had been naughty through the year. It is also thought that St Nicholas is the representation of god and Back Peter was his servant the devil.
Austria – Krampus
In Austria they celebrate the legend of Santa’s helper Krampus, Krampus would accompany St Nicholas as he delivered his presents to children, it was his job to scare, hit and punish children who had been bad and therefore did not deserve gifts from St Nicholas. Krampus is represented as a demon creature, very similar to the first depictions of the devil with his almost goat like appearance. In modern day Austria young men dress up as Krampus and roam the streets scaring children and shaking bells and chains.
Belgium boasts not one, but two Santa Clauses, St. Nicholas and Pere Noel. St. Nicholas is the “bad cop” of the duo, and is all about reconnaissance. On Dec 4, he melts into the Belgian shadows to thoroughly investigate the backgrounds of unsuspecting children.
While American Santa conducts his “naughty/nice” tallies up at the North Pole through magic, St. Nick’s Belgian operation seems less about enchantment and more about unsavory late-night stakeouts and countless anxiously smoked cigarettes. His methods, while morally disquieting, are effective. By Dec 6, St. Nick has all the dirt, which he passes along to Pere Noel in time for Christmas.
For the nice: presents; the naughty: twigs. Belgian Santa doesn’t leave the naughty/nice debate open to interpretation. If you’re bad, he takes the time to really rub your nose in it. Still, if he’s tailed some poor Walloon kid around for the better part of a weekend, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that the little bastard deserved a handful of dirty sticks for Christmas.
At least the stick-receiving child might be able to join forces stateside with our naughty children, who get coal in their stockings. Between the two of them, they could get a warm fire going, the greatest gift of all.
Catalonia – El Caganer (the great defecator)
Yes, this is a little defecating statue that appears in the Nativity scene, just perhaps not any that you have seen. He is generally a tiny monk or peasant that is placed in the corner of the Nativity scene. It might sounds rather unpleasant having a man pooing just across from Jesus being born, but El Caganer is actually representing fertilization and a good coming harvest.
Czech Republic – Shoes for love
Women who are single in the Czech Republic go through a rather strange ritual on Christmas eve, they face away from their front door and throw a shoe over their shoulder. If the heel lands facing the door then she will remain single in the coming year, if the shoes toe faces the door then she will marry within the year.
Germany – The pickle ornament
Although most families finish decorating their trees with a Christmas star, but in Germany they have a tradition of adding a pickle ornament last. The first child to find the pickle on the tree gets an extra present and is blessed with luck for the coming year.
Greece – Kallikantzaroi
In Greece to guard against evil spirits called Kallikantzaroi that live deep underground, some traditional families will hang a pig jaw inside the chimney to keep the evil spirits from descending into their homes.
Greenland – Eating rotten Auk
A food that is traditionally eaten at Christmas in Greenland is Kiviak, or rotten Auk. Yes something that would gift quick weight loss if presented as the only Xmas fare to most people. The whole dead Auk (bird) is wrapped in a seal skin and buried under a rock and left out in the snow and frost for a few months. Then at Christmas is is dug up and all the rotten guts removed and the skin eaten, it is said to taste very tangy and smells of Stilton cheese.
Itlay – La Befana the witch
This is a funny little legend of a kindly old witch, that on their way to Bethlehem the wise men from the East ask La Befana for shelter. which she grants. The next morning they ask her to join them in their search for the special baby boy born to god. Befana refuses saying that she has cleaning to do, you have got the admire the tenacity of a witch. By the time Befana finally follows the Margi, she is too late and cannot find the baby, it is said that from now on she searches each Xmas for the baby Jesus in peoples homes. Italian children put out wine and food for the witch and in turn Befana leaves a present for them, not knowing which one of them is the baby Jesus.
Norway – Hide the Brooms
In Norway they believe that on Christmas eve, witches and evil spirits try to steal your broom, and so they hide all the brooms in the house. Not sure why witches choose this night to nick a broom, but beware Harry Potter.
Latvia – Mumming
They love dressing up in Latvia, and the most famous tradition at Xmas is called Mumming. This is where locals wear really unusual costumes and masks, ranging from animals like bears and goats to zombies and haystacks. Not sure how you would exactly create a haystack outfit, but i guess they manage to pull it off.
Portugal – Zombie Xmas Dinner
In Portugal the dead are respected at Xmas and extra places are even lain out for the dead as Xmas dinner, the plates are also filled as a gift to the dead and they believe that by welcoming these souls that their own new year will be happy and blessed.
Spain – The Catalan or the pooping log
Hers one for all the family, in Spain family’s buy a Catalan log, this is a hollowed out log with a smiling face on it. They generally look like a dog or deer, with funny little constructed legs. The family then begin filling or feeding the log until it is full of candy and toys for Christmas day. The children then beat the log until it literally poops out gifts and sweets. The song the children sing is particularly catchy “Poop log, poop turron, hazelnuts and cottage cheese, if you don’t poop well, I’ll hit you with a stick, poop log!”
Sweden – Burning the goat
In the Swedish town of Gavle, they build and erect a giant goat made of straw the celebrate Xmas, and is lit on Christmas Day. Although vandals almost always get to the goat before Xmas as set it alight.
Ukraine – Spiders Web
The tradition of the spider in the tree comes from an old legend of a poor widow and her children who could not afford to decorate their Xmas tree, as they had only enough money to feed themselves. The tale goes that the children wake up their mother on Xmas morning so excited that the tree is decorated, the widow finds that a spider has covered the tree in a web that is glittering in the light. The web then turned into gold and silver and the family were no longer poor.
Modern tradition is to hide a plastic spider in the tree to signify the coming of a fortunate year.
Wales – The Grey Mare
In Wales a Xmas tradition is for making money using a horse skull, hummm. Basically people find an old horse skull and stick this on a pike, cover this in a old sheet and go out in the streets. If they make the skull bite someone, then this person must give them money.
This entry was posted on Friday, December 24th, 2010 at 21:52 and is filed under Society, Trivia. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.