Once again, we are experiencing a disrupted festive season. It’s certainly true for many people that it’s beginning to look a lot like LAST Christmas. Chances are you are not getting the opportunity to celebrate how you’d really like, and it’s a shame for sure. But, if you can, why keep the festive spirit alive by embracing change again, and take ownership of circumstance? The ‘most wonderful time of the year’ will roll around again before you know it.
And, in the meantime you can check out some other festive traditions from around the world — some crazy, some spooky, some downright hilarious. Why not try one out this year? A change is as good as a holiday after all! (or so they say!)
Iceland: The Yule Lads
Iceland has a few sinister seasonal characters. From the Yule Cat, who will eat people who have not received new clothes before Christmas eve, to Gryla, a hideous child-boiling troll, to her 13 sons, the Yule Lads. In the lead up to Christmas they either leave toys for good children or rotten potatoes for bad ones. Up until 1746 the Yule Lads were much scarier, but that year a law was passed banning parents from terrifying their children with stories of the bearded scamps.
Like the 7 Dwarfs from Snow White, each Yule Lad has a different persona, or at least a name that hints at his mischievous habits. These include:
Sheep-Cote Clod: He tries to drink the milk from farmer’s sheep.
Stubby: The shortest, he steals food from frying pans.
Skyr Gobbler: He eats all the yoghurt.
Sausage Swiper: He steals all the sausages.
Spoon Licker: (guess?)
Door Slammer: (again — can you guess?)
Why not pick which Yule Lad most represents you? Beats star signs I reckon!
Catalonia: Not One, but Two Poop Traditions
Yep, you read that right. As if to make up for a global dearth, Catalonia has not one, but two festive poop traditions. The first one is known as el caganer, or ‘crapper’, and is a small figurine placed on the outskirts of the traditional nativity scene. Wearing a red hat, his trousers around his ankles, a small unmistakeable pile sits beneath his bare bottom. Supposedly representing fertile crops for the rest of the year, in recent times a booming business has begun selling el caganers in the form of famous people from politicians to Spongebob Squarepants.
The second poopy tradition of Catalonia is Caga Tió. Or ‘Poop Log’. A hollow log with a cheery face painted on, in the lead up to Christmas children ‘feed’ it nuts and candy and keep it warm in blankets. On Christmas Eve children beat the log with sticks and sing a special song to make him defecate gifts. Hooray! Why not make your own poop log this year?
Italy: La Befana
In Italy it’s not just St. Nick who gives presents during the festive season. There is a second gift day for lucky Italian children on the eve of Epiphany (January 5th), but instead of a cheery beardy man, they are distributed by a sooty broom-riding witch! La Befana gives candy to the good kids and coal to the bad kids, as seems to be the compulsion for festive characters. It is customary to leave a glass of wine out for this holiday witch, and due to this, she is said to ride about the skies of January 5th rather drunk. Luckily she is also said to sweep up after herself.
Wales: Mari Lwyd or ‘Grey Mare’
Now on to Wales for a rather sinister looking —on the surface at least — tradition. Mari Lwyd or ‘Grey Mare’ is a ghoulish character — a figure dressed in a horse’s skull, a white sheet, bells and colourful ribbons who goes door to door between Christmas and New Year, surrounded by singing townsfolk. Once your door is knocked upon, you must enter a battle of wits with the Mari Lwynd, singing songs and inventing rhymes until one of you ‘wins’, and the Mari Lwynd is let inside for festive food and drink. This tradition is thought to be pre-Christian, and sometimes the Mari Lwyd is carted out on other occasions, such as May Day.
Japan: KFC Christmas Dinner
Now from an ancient tradition, to a very new one. Less than 1% of the Japanese population are Christian, but in 2016 at least 3.6 million families in Japan celebrated Christmas with a bucket of the Colonel’s ‘Christmas Chicken’. But how did this happen? Well, with a little dusting of Christmas capitalism of course!
The story goes that one year a group of foreigners living in Japan couldn’t source a turkey for their holiday celebrations. So, they chose a bucket of fried chicken as the closest substitute. KFC saw this as a huge commercial opportunity, so in 1974 they launched “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!) It was crazy successful. Today you can order the Christmas chicken dinner, which includes cake and champagne, for around 3,336 yen (or about $40). And, make sure you order ahead. For those who forget it’s a two hour wait in a queue around the block of your local fried chicken establishment. The Financial Times explains;
“Japan is well known for taking foreign products and ideas and adapting them to suit domestic taste, and Christmas is no exception. A highly commercialised and non-religious affair, lots of money is spent annually on decorations, dinners and gifts. KFC is arguably the biggest contributor, thanks in part to its advertising campaign.”
Well, it is festive finger-lickin’ good, I guess!
Traditions Can Begin At Any Time
Did you see any traditions you liked? We’re considering going on a stick hunt in the local park RIGHT NOW to make our very own Poop Log!
But alternately, another tradition you could start this year is going on a festive psychedelic trip. Whether alone or with friends, the glow and giggles of a magic mushroom or truffle trip will bring the warming feeling of the holidays to you before you know it. Even if the weather outside is frightful…