It’s the most wonderful (and weird) time of the year…
We’re all already familiar with Christmas caroling and exchanging gifts for the holidays, but what about the candy-pooping log, or evil Christmas Eve cat?
Read on for the quirkiest and wonderfully weird traditions of the season.
Austria: Krampus – Santa’s evil counterpart
Thought a lump of coal was the worst thing you could get for Christmas? Think again! In Austria, Alpine folklore tells of an evil horned creature (part goat, part demon) named Krampus, whose purpose is to punish children who’ve misbehaved. While good children are treated by Santa, bad ones are taken by Krampus in his bathtub to his hellish lair... Austrians honor the legend with Krampus holiday cards, and dress up as the monster on the eve of the December 5, AKA Krampusnacht, or “Krampus night”.
Spain: Disgusting cakes
December 28 in Spain is the ‘Day of the Holy Innocents’, which in parts of Spain is treated like April Fools’ Day. Bakers uphold the tradition by making salty cakes using salt instead of sugar, to play a trick on unsuspecting customers!
Also Spain: The candy-pooping log
Tió De Nadal is a very curious Catalan tradition. Children craft a cute log character, who resides in the family home through December. They give it gifts and wrap it up at night to stay warm, until Christmas Eve…when they cover him up, beat him with sticks, sing a traditional (toilet themed) song and unveil the blanket, where the log has pooped a pile of candy.
Japan: Colonal Sanders over Santa
The marvel of marketing has made Colonel Sanders more of a figure than Santa in Japan: Ever since an insanely successful KFC holiday campaign in 1974, while we tuck into our ham or turkey to celebrate the holidays, Japanese households enjoy Kentucky Fried Chicken! It’s so popular that the price skyrockets on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and people have to place pre-orders to get their family buckets.
Italy: A festive witch
A little like Santa does for American children, on the eve of January 5th, Befana the good witch visits Italian bambini through their chimneys, filling their stockings with treats.
South Africa: Eat your Christmas caterpillars
Forget candy canes: In South Africa, the Christmas caterpillar is a festive treat. Deep fried Emperor Moth caterpillar is a Christmas Day delicacy believed to bring good luck for the coming year.
Peru: A Christmas Day fist fight
Takanakuy is a Quechua term for to ‘boiling blood’ and in certain places in Peru, December 25 is a time for an organized brawl in the form of the Takanakuy festival. Signifying reconciliation and new beginnings, people dress in fantastical costumes then wrestle in a ring. Folk music plays and there is a merry, festival atmosphere.
Norway: Hide your brooms!
In Norway, on the night before Christmas, it’s believed that evil spirits and witches visit households. So, everyone hides their broom to prevent witches stealing it for a on Christmas Eve joy ride.
Guatemala: Use your brooms!
To keep evil out of the household, the week before Christmas sees Guatemalans undertaking a big cleaning project. Trash is heaped outside, with a scarecrow of the devil on top, then everything is burned in a bonfire—La Quema del Diablo (the 'Burning of the Devil'.) The idea is to be destroying the evil from the previous year, so that a new year can be born from the ashes.
Czech Republic: Shoe lobbing for singles
A rather fairytale festivity for Czechia: Single women stand outside their homes on Christmas Eve and throw one of their shoes over their shoulder. If the shoe lands with the toe towards the door, they will be married in the coming year…
Iceland: The evil cat (who eats you if you don’t do your chores)
Thought to date back to the Dark Ages, Jólakötturinn or the Yule Cat is a a giant, beastly creature who roams the Icelandic countryside, and peers through windows on Christmas Eve to see your Christmas presents. Anyone who doesn’t get new clothes for a Christmas present (you do your chores, you get given clothes) gets eaten by the evil cat.
Switzerland: Splattered ice cream
That slow-motion splat of a dropped ice cream usually brings great dread and despair (especially if it’s Amalfi gelato!). Not so in Switzerland, where the new year is celebrated by dropping an ice cream on the floor, to bring good luck.
China: Ear-shaped dumplings for dinner
The Chinese festival Dongzhi is linked to the Yin and Yang philosophy and takes place around the winter solstice. Families gather to enjoy a meal including ear-shaped dumplings, because of an ancient legend where a doctor fed the poor with dumplings to keep their ears from getting frostbite.
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