Christmastime is here. We all have our own holiday traditions – in my family we watch a Christmas movie on Christmas Eve and stuff our faces. Your family might do something different. Shoot, you might even be from another country, where there are what seem (to us) like some pretty wacky traditions. Some you might like to try…some you might want to skip.
10. Kiviak – Dig Up the Dead Bird
For instance, you might want to skip Kiviak. What’s that, you ask? Well. Kiviak is a whole auk (don’t worry, I had to look it up too – it’s a bird) that is wrapped in seal skin and buried under a rock in the frost several months before Christmas. The Christmas tradition is to dig up the kiviak, squeeze out the rotted guts, and then eat the auk. No, I’m not kidding. According to the few reports we could find, it smells a lot like Stilton cheese and tastes really tangy. We’ll take your word for it, Greenland. Image source: http://foodlorists.blogspot.com/
9. Hiding Your Brooms
Bad witches and evil spirits could exist here as well as Norway. Norway takes preventative measures on Christmas Eve, when evil baddies and baddie witches might try to make off with your brooms. Hide all your brooms! Apparently, Christmas Eve is a prime broom-joyriding time in Norway. It could be here, too!
8. Kallikantzaroi & Pig Jaw Protection
Similarly, in Greece there is a need to ward off bad spirits. Kallikantzaroi are evil spirits that live deep inside the earth most of the year, but wreak havoc on Greek homes over the Christmas holiday. There are lots of ways to ward off these pests, which are described differently at every turn. Some say they look like people, some say they look like very tall things that wear metal shoes. I happen to like the description that says they have monkey arms and red eyes and are covered in fur. Just hang a pig jaw inside the chimney to keep them from coming down it.
7. Skating to Church
On a lighter note, the capital city of Venezuela has a neat tradition. The streets in Caracas are closed off in order to allow churchgoers to get there by roller-skate. Nothing like getting a little cardio in before a church service.
6. Stirring the Pudding
Pudding is very important in the Christmas traditions of Great Britain. If you make the pudding right, it can bring you luck as well. Legend has it if you mix your pudding in a clockwise direction and make a wish the wish will come true. Just make sure everyone in the family gets a whirl – it’s rude to keep all the wishes for yourself.
5. Lose a Shoe, Gain a Man
Tired of being single? If you’re a woman you can do this simple Christmas Eve tradition from the Czech Republic. Just go outside in the daytime, stand with your back to your door, and toss one of your shoes over your shoulder. If it lands with the toe facing the door, it means you’ll get married within the year. If you aren’t tired of being single try it anyway. If the heel faces the door then you’re in luck!
4. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
If luck is what you’re seeking, you should take a hint from the folks in Portugal. The ‘consoda’ feast takes place Christmas Day. You set extra places at your dinner table for the souls of the dead. Offer them food and they will bring you luck throughout the year.
3. Don’t Throw Out That Horse Skull Just Yet…
Or, if you’re looking to make some extra cash you can follow this old tradition from Wales called the Mari Lwyd (Venerable Mary). It’s easy. Just find a horse skull, because you’ll need that. Also, make yourself a horsehair sheet (maybe out of the salvaged hair of the horse you get the skull from) because you’ll need that, too. Get yourself some mummers and a bucket. Now, go out about the town covered in the horsehair sheet holding the horse’s head up on a pike. Make the horse’s skeletal mouth bite people you meet in the street. If it “bites” them, they have to pay a fine. Put the money in the bucket. At the end you have a bucket of money, or a horse head on a pike in a very uncomfortable place.
2. Poop Log
Both of the top two bizarre Christmas traditions come from Catalonia, Spain. The first is a tradition that is fun for the whole family. Get a log. Hollow out the log. Put a face on the log, and some arms and legs. Make it look like a reindeer or a dog or something. Start “feeding” the log on December 8th. It should be full of candy and toys and stuff by Christmas. Then, beat the log (or “Caga Tio”) until he “poops” out all the goodies. If the stuff won’t come out, there is a song you can sing. It translates to “Poop log, poop turron, hazelnuts and cottage cheese, if you don’t poop well, I’ll hit you with a stick, poop log!”
1. El Caganer – The Great Defecator
His name is El Caganer. He’s a figurine for your nativity scene. He’s a red-capped peasant, or a monk, or another type of figure (nowadays you can buy them of famous people). You place him a little bit away from the rest of the figures in your nativity scene. Because he’s crapping. Yep. El Caganer translates to “the great defecator” in Catalonian. It’s not sacrilegious – the “fertilizer” means the year will yield a good harvest. If not, it’s a heck of a conversation piece.