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Weird Holiday Traditions Around the World

by Violet Wisdom



Radish Sculpting Competition- Oaxaca, Mexico

Officially declared a holiday in 1897. December 23rd is Noche de Los Rábanos, Night of the Radishes. Originating as a means to increase market sales, vegetables were carved into sculptures, especially radishes. Today it is an art contest, and apparently ANYTHING can be carved from a radish. 


Yule Cat Iceland. Jólakötturinn is a hungry cat looking for anyone who doesn’t get new clothes for Christmas. Back in the days before people motivated their workers with special parking spots, employers would simply scare the crap out of their employees. Wool needed to be fully processed and ready for clothes making by mid-December. If you didn’t have new clothes, it was obviously because you didn’t work hard enough. So, yeah a cat would eat you. Duh. 



Krampus- Germanic, primarily celebrated in Austria

Krampus night is December 5th 

Leave it to the land of creepy fairy tales to bring the world… Krampus. After centuries of Germanic children learning how to behave well with darling night time reads such as the boy who learned his thumbs would be cut off by the town tailor if he kept sucking his them, should Krampus surprise anyone?  Krampus is a wicked looking entity complete with horns who travels alongside Santa Claus to deal with the bad kids. Santa gives the good kids presents and treats in their shoes while Krampus stuffs the bad kids in his sack, beats them and in some stories takes them home for dinner (and I don’t mean as a guest). Geeze, to think I thought the Elf on the Shelf caused anxiety! 


Swedish goats made of straw-

The legend of the Yule goat goes something like this; Thor utilized goats to pull his chariot all day then Thor would eat them each night. No worries, they came back every morning ready to do it again. People in Sweden decorate with goats made of straw and even have a celebration that includes the Yule Sacrifice, Juleoffer. Someone dresses up as a goat and acts out the story of being killed then coming back to life. 


Hide the Brooms Norway- The witches come out for mischief making on Christmas Eve in Norway, so to prevent any brooms from being stolen, Norweigens take time to hide their brooms before going to bed.  You should probably hide the Swifter, just in case. 


Decorating with oranges- Medieval Europe

I always wondered where this tradition came from. Having very little understanding of how diseases work, oranges with cloves (a pomander which is basically a round piece of fruit with cloves stabbed into it or a round anything with perfumes packed inside like a necklace pendant). Back in the 1600s it was one of many odd attempts to protect people from the plague. In the end, it turned out to be a cool looking holiday decoration so, there you have it.


Czechia- Christmas engagements. By throwing one of your shoes over your shoulder while standing just outside your home you can possibly ensure you’ll be getting married soon. The shoe does have to land with the toe pointing to the door or you’ll have to go back to online dating. 


La Befana- The Gift Giving Witch Italy

On the Eve of the Epiphany (the day that celebrates the Three Kings reaching baby Jesus), A good witch makes her to children's homes to fill their stockings. She even takes a few extra moments to sweep up the floors before heading out to the next home. Originating from the Roman goddess Sabine, La Befana has been around since the 1200s. Just like Santa, La Befana only gives treats to good children and coal or garlic to bad children. The city of Urbania is host to the largest celebration of this good witch which includes people dressed to look like her and give candy to children. Instead of cookies and milk, families leave her wine, broccoli and sausages. Forget the treats, I’ll leave her a whole bottle of wine if she’ll come clean my floors!


Mari Lwyd - 

In Wales, carolers go door to door singing with an ornately festive horse skull. Once someone opens a door, they sing and go into a game where the carolers and residents enter a battle of rhyming wits and insults. Once the game is over, the residents invite them in for refreshments.


Spider webs for decorations in Ukriane-

This one is a lovely story. It begins with a poor widow and her children who wish for a Christmas Tree. Soon after a pinecone falls to the ground and grows into a beautiful Christmas tree. The mother and children cry themselves to sleep on Christmas Eve because they can’t afford to decorate the tree. While sleeping however, the spiders in the house covered the tree with beautiful webs which turned to gold and silver when the sunlight reached them. To this day, Ukrainians decorate their tree with spider web decorations. 


The pickle ornament

The German Weihnactsgurke is considered a German tradition, however Germans themselves don’t know where it originated. The pickle gets hidden deep in the tree for a child to find. When a child finds it they get a special gift. Maybe a marketing scheme that someone came up with to sell pickle ornaments that took on a life of its own?


Pooping Log  Catalonia, Spain

The Tió De Nadal is a hollowed out log with legs and a face. The log is fed candy from December 8 until Christmas Eve, all the while kept warm by a blanket. On Christmas morning the log is beaten so that the treats will come out. Sometimes there are even gifts found under the log’s blanket.  



Not so weird: Yule:

On December 22nd, the wheel turns to YULE, Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. The Goddess gives birth to the sun god once again, bringing light back to the Northern Hemisphere.. Winter Solstice is also the day the Celts would bring evergreen fir trees into their homes to remind them the sunlight is increasing a little more each day. This day is more than a Sabbat, it is a celebration to reflect on the previous year and look forward to the new year with new experiences. HAPPY YULE!


What is my family's weirdest tradition? 

We only have a few a bit off the side of normal. First, we have Thriftmas Eve on Christmas Eve. We all draw names and have to bring a gift that is anything but new. It is challenging and often ends up pretty funny. Our other not so typical tradition is the Yule Log Hunt. I started this game over twenty years ago for a Christmas Eve event for the children in our family and neighborhood. I would write ten rhyming clues (clue #1 takes you to clue #2 and so on) to the Yule log, then one clue for each child that would take them to their gift. Just for the heck of it, I did this again with my adult children and their spouses a few years ago for a Christmas Day game. They seemed to enjoy it more than when they were kids and it has become a yearly tradition.


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