It’s December and the final holidays of the year are in full swing. Christmas gets most of the attention, but it’s certainly not the only one in town. Mental Floss has an article featuring a few other holidays you might want to celebrate this year.
Of course, if you are going to stick with Christmas, there are many strange traditions available there as well. This infographic on Love Home Swap has a list to view, but we’ve grabbed some favorites for you right here.
Every holiday has it’s foods. Thanks to the 1983 film A Christmas Story, a generation of people in the United States (and maybe around the world) think about having Chinese food for Christmas dinner, but there are other bizarre traditions. Try one of these:
A delicious dish of mopane worms Photo by Ling Symon [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons”
South Africans enjoy a traditional delicacy of fried mopane worms. These are actually caterpillars for the Emperor Moth. They are high in protein and can be prepared as a simple fried snack or an elaborate dish like the picture.If that’s not to your taste, you might enjoy some Greenland traditions. Have a little Mattak (also known as Muktuk), made from raw whale skin. If that’s too tame, and you really want to do it up right you might prepare Kiviak. That’s essentially 400-500 whole auk birds that are left to ferment in a hollowed-out seal carcass for 3-18 months. The fermentation softens the auks so that every part can be eaten except for the feathers. I guess there’s a bucket for those. Kiviak is best served cold and outdoors. (That will never come out of the drapes!)Of course, you don’t have to go for something that exotic. An advertising campaign in 1974 left ripples in time as many Japanese families eat at KFC on Christmas Eve. This is especially interesting as the day is not a national holiday in Japan and not widely celebrated there.
If the person across the street has had their Christmas decorations up since before Halloween you can add a little challenge to the scene with some of these lovely twists on the traditional holiday theme.
Ukraine spider decoration on a Christmas tree Photo by Erika Smith [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons”
Isn’t this little guy cute? Photo by Slastic [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
If you really want to get some attention you might consider adding the Catalonian caganer to your crèche this season. The BBC has a full article on this little bad boy, but it’s basically a figure defecating (yes you read that right). It’s been a part of decorations in this area of Spain for about two centuries. Why? It probably started as a joke in poor taste and then marketing got hold of it. Caganer figures come in an enormous variety of styles. You can even find pictures of giant displays in the shopping centers.
If the poo theme has appeal, you can continue it with another Catalonian tradition called the Tio de Nadal. As this article on Atlas Obscura explains, this is an adorable decorated log which is filled with presents for the family. It is cared for and even given a blanket to keep it warm. Finally, on Christmas Eve the little guy is put into the fireplace and the family takes turns beating it while commanding it to poop out presents. It’s like a piñata but Quentin-Tarantino-style.
I have to admit that I like the Ukrainian style for decorating trees. Along with the traditional decorations they include spider webs and spiders. This tradition stems from a legend about a poor widow and her children who were excited to find a pine tree growing next to their house, meaning they would have a Christmas tree. However, they were too poor to decorate it. The spiders in the area heard their tears and spent the night covering the tree with their intricate webs. When the family awoke they found the tree covered in the ethereal silken lace. As the sun rose and the golden rays touched the webs they turned each one into silver and gold and the widow and her children never wanted for anything again.
So, don’t put all those Halloween decorations away!
Jólakötturinn will get you if you don’t get new clothes.
Kallikatzaros by ΟΕΔΒ 1961 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
You’ve all heard about Santa Claus, and you’ve probably been hearing plenty about Krampus lately, but there are plenty of other interesting creatures who reward and terrorize people for Christmas. Try these on for size:
Cats are notoriously dangerous to Christmas trees, but in Iceland the Yule Cat (or Jólakötturinn) will devour anyone who doesn’t receive a new item of clothing. Socks probably count. We don’t know about ties. This seems to be a more recent tradition, started in the 19th century, but so did the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future. We don’t require our child-devouring beasts to be ancient, as long as children are being devoured. (…so buy someone some socks!)
You might also experience a horde of Kallikantzaroi from Greece, evil goblins that lurk underground but escape to the surface for the 12 days of Christmas, wreaking havoc. They are essentially destructive hooligans but rather than wearing sports team paraphernalia they are black-haired, dog-faced creatures with goat hooves.
A wine-drinking, present-delivering Christmas witch? Sign us up!
Of course, not all supernatural creatures of the season are bad. Some are rather nice. For example, In Italy, the friendly witch, Befana, delivers toys and sweets on the 5th of January. (Clever that, because everything is on the after-holiday sale!) She sounds like a hoot, too, flying around on her broom delivering presents for good children—leaving coal for the naughty ones—and consuming wine left as a gift for her.
So, there you have it! Several interesting traditions you can use to spice up your holiday. Of course, you should also add the tradition of visiting the Museum of the Weird to pick up some unique gifts and see our exhibits. See you soon!