Sure, everyone these days is quite familiar with the Western and northern European Yuletide figure of the Krampus, a giant goat-like demon who is often considered the embodiment of the boogeyman, out to punish naughty children. Yet, despite it’s rather satanic imagery and morbid contrast to the cute, cuddly and nostalgic Santa Claus we all know, it has been welcomed into mainstream American culture through the growing interest in Krampus Parades, costumes, ironic greeting cards, and of course, a darkly comedic horror movie of the same name. In this list we will explore some likewise lesser-known Christmas traditions from around the world–Some which could one day become absorbed in our own holiday cultural zeitgeist!
In yet another cultural custom brought to us from Northern Europe, Scandinavians such as the Norwegians and Swedes have a practice of building large straw and wooden goats, which are said to represent one of the great goats which draws the Norse god Thor’s chariot. Since Father Christmas and Santa Claus are derivative figures of Thor in the pagan originated holiday, we suggest you Americanize this Northern European tradition by constructing large effigies of reindeer in your yard and lighting them on fire! This will be a truly festive sight for you and your entire neighborhood to behold!
Eat The Worm
Inspired by the South African Christmas custom of gorging themselves on a local delicacy, fried Emperor Moth caterpillars, this tradition has recently evolved into a fun game played in many American households. Some readers have shared with us their take on this custom after spending a holiday abroad in Cape Town. Rose, 53, from San Francisco, California, tells us that instead of eating a bunch of them, as the Emperor Moth is not easy to come by in this part of the world, they make a single fried caterpillar and put it into an innocent and unassuming dish, such as a creamy, no-bake cheesecake. The person who finds the caterpillar in their Christmas meal is considered to have good luck for the year to come!
Most Americans have their own cleansing rituals in the form of Spring-cleaning, in which we call go through our old clothing and accumulated junk and hold rummage sales or sell on sites like Craigslist, Offer-Up, or Facebook. This next tradition, taken from Central American, involves sweeping the house during Christmas to symbolically purify it of negative energy and evil forces. Some have taken this idea and charged it with a newfound sense of spiritual cleansing through the removal of unwanted and unneeded materials. Get a head start on that Spring-cleaning, and instead of selling or donating old clothing and toys to the needy, burn it in a sacrificial bonfire and turn up the party! Set your household Roomba ablaze! (Editor’s Note: Do not set your Roomba ablaze…)
Pooping Nativity Scenes
Think we’re joking with this next tradition, readers? Well, think again with a cursory Google search! In the Catalonia region of Spain, natives of this area often decorate their Nativity scenes, complete with the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus in the manger, with a fella’ called the “caganer”, a little figure of a man squatting over a pile of feces. The origins of this figure are not entirely clear, but adding a caganer to your own Nativity at home will be a great source of amusement. Some of our readers have already welcomed this Spanish tradition into their own festivities, and taken it one step further by ceremonially defecating in their illuminated, outdoor Nativity scenes, siting that it “is a great reminder of mortality, and helps to morally align these opposing symbols”.
Fill Your Christmas Tree With Spiders
In our last unusual Christmas practice, we look to a folk story from Ukraine, which a poor, old widow and her children go to sleep on Christmas Eve with a barren, undecorated tree, but wake up to a grand miracle: a spider has woven a beautiful and glittering web over their pine! It is often said that this is the explanation for why we decorate our trees in tinsel, but why not get more authentic and traditional? Spiders in Eastern Europe are said to be good luck, especially if you find them in your tree, so instead of decorating with fake webs and fake spiders, you should get some real ones! We here at Every Woman Weekly suggest releasing roughly a dozen of Tegenaria Domestica, otherwise known as barn funnel weaver, on your Christmas tree! These spiders are known for their large, beautiful and funnel shaped webs and are probably non-venomous, unlike their extremely deadly Australian cousins. Their gossamer threads and presence on your tree and around your home will be sure to spread a feeling of ease and fortune among your friends and family!