When you think about it, Christmas traditions in the US aren’t the most normal of things. We gift each other food we’re honestly not that into (fruit cake we’re looking at you), leave milk and cookies out for an obese man and his pet reindeer who are essentially home intruders, and leave giant socks on our mantles to be filled with toys and candy.
But our odd actions ain’t got nothing on these…
Iceland – Yule Lads
Not content with one Santa, Iceland has 13. Well, less Santa more…trolls with quirks. One likes to steal pie crust, another wooden spoons. Hurðaskellir busies himself slamming doors and another arrives on December 23rd with (rather terrifyingly) a meat hook. There’s also a Christmas Cat who kills anyone who doesn’t get a present of new clothes for Christmas. Payback for all those internet cat memes? No one knows for sure.
The Caganer – Catalonia
Look closely at any Nativity scene in Catalonia and some surrounding areas and you’ll spot The Caganer. This symbol of prosperity, fertile land and even equality is…well…it’s someone with their pants down having a poo. Sometimes it’s a famous person. Sometimes it’s a Smurf. Smurf poo is blue (is a sentence I never thought I’d type).
Courtesy of OK Apartment and Núria on Flickr
Banana/mango Christmas trees – India
There are 25 million Christians in India and evergreen trees are hard to come by. As a result many people in India decorate Mango or Banana trees instead. Practical, festive and hung with ready made decorations…what more could you want?
Hiding the broom – Norway
Surprisingly not a euphemism, hiding the broom is a tradition amongst Norwegian housewives who do so to stop the witches getting hold of them. Apparently. Attempts to confirm this with Norwegian acquaintances has led to the digital rolling of eyes so this might just be a lie to tell tourists that has passed into folklore like the German Pickle ornament. We’re getting off track…
Italy – La Befana
Pre-dating the modern Father Christmas story by a long way, the witch La Befana has some remarkable similarities with St Nick including climbing down the chimney, rewarding good children with presents and giving bad children coal. So similar in fact we wonder if Chris Kringle might possibly have stolen his greatest hits.
Spiders webs – Ukraine
Nothing says Christmas like a tree covered in spider’s webs. If you live in Ukraine. It’s actually a beautiful folk tale of a poor woman who couldn’t afford to decorate her tree and, when a kindly spider did the deed for her. The morning sun turned the webs to gold and she and her children never wanted for anything again. See you feel bad about being creeped out by it now don’t you? No? Nah us neither.