Do you know about some of the most bizarre holiday traditions from around the world? These traditions will scare you, move you, make you laugh, or maybe even make you cry. It’s safe to say that you might never see the holidays the same way again. After all, how many times have you gone around caroling with a dead horse, or hiding statues of a pooping man around your house, or beating a log for gifts? Yeah, this happens in parts of the world and today we’re going to talk to you about them. So get ready, because these are the most bizarre Christmas traditions from around the world.
Our list is full of scary Christmas creatures from Krampus, vicious Christmas cats, and ugly but kind Christmas witches. However, let’s add one more creature to the list: Christmas straw monsters! In Bavaria, they celebrate Christmas by dressing up as scary straw monsters and roaming the streets scaring people. Not going to lie, this actually sounds like fun. Bavarians even go as far as rating which straw monster is the scariest. Move over, Halloween.
Dead Horse Caroling
How does caroling with a dead horse sound? Not good? Well, that’s what they do in Wales in a tradition called “Mari Lwyd.” In its purest form, the tradition involves the arrival of a real skeletal horse head accompanied by carolers at a home or a pub. The carolers will sing a few introductory verses before a battle of wits ensues. People inside exchange challenges and insults in rhyme with the people outside. Wouldn’t it be great to go around singing insults to people you may or may not know while carrying the head of a dead horse?
You might remember Black Pete from our Christmas controversy list. In the Netherlands, Black Pete is celebrated as Santa’s Little helper. The problem, however, is that the character is tied with racial undertones. Black Pete is represented as a blackface character with large gold earrings and exaggerated lips. The origin of the character is said to be rooted in a mid-19th-century children’s book and was inspired by a slave bought in a market in Cairo. The protest against this character has had a strong push pack from Neo-Nazi white supremacists who raised Nazi salutes at the Sinterklaas parade in Hoorn and flew neo-Nazi flags at the one in Zaandijk.
By the end of this list, you are going to realize Spain has a lot of odd (cool?) Christmas traditions. Take El Caganer, for example. Do you know what “El Caganer” translates to? The picture might give you a clue. It translates to the defecator (extra points if you got that before you read this sentence). How exactly this tradition started is a mystery, but legend has it that farmers’ crops would suffer if they did not include a Caganer within their nativity scene. Who would have guessed that pooping would bring someone good fortune?
Mass Roller Skating
Enough poop talk. Let’s get a little more serious here and talk about mass. It’s common for some people to go to mass on Christmas Eve. However, residents in Caracas, Venezuela take this tradition a little bit further. Not only do they go to mass, but they go in roller skates. When was the last time you went to church in roller skates?
We’ve already talked about a Christmas tradition associated with pooping (see El Caganer). Well, here’s another one. Caga Tio which is translated as caga (to poop) and tio (uncle or tree trunk…hence the log) is an interesting Christmas tradition from the Catalonian region of Spain. The Caga Tio is a small log of wood with a painted face and two front legs. The logs start to appear in people’s homes on December 8th with children keeping it as a “pet” until Christmas. Then on Christmas day, the children beat the log until it poops out the presents. Poor log. Kids literally beat the poop out of it!
If you’ve been bad this year, a lump of coal in your stocking is the least of your worries. In some parts of the world, bad boys and girls can expect a visit from the horrifying creature called Krampus. Usually depicted with hooves and large horns, Krampus has an unusual appetite for bad children. Those he finds particularly bad, he’ll carry away in a sack and eat them as a midnight snack! So you better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I’m telling you why…Krampus.
The Horror of the Yule Cat
Aside from Krampus, some people might also get a visit from this absolutely frightening feline. The Yule Cat (Jólakötturinn or Jólaköttur) is an enormous and vicious cat from Icelandic folklore that hunts people who have not received new clothes on Christmas Eve. Apparently, the story began as a threat used by farmers to get their workers to finish processing the autumn wool before Christmas. The workers that helped accomplish this daunting task would receive new clothes, but those who did not would get nothing. No new clothes equals getting eaten by a very hungry, huge, and scary cat. As scary as this kitty sounds, I might take a huge kitty over Krampus. How about you?
Christmas Tree Web Decorations
Did you know that Christmas trees in Ukraine are often covered in spider webs? No, it’s not because Ukraine has spider issues. Rather, it has to do with the story of a poor family who grew a Christmas tree from a pine cone. When it came time for the holidays, the family was not able to decorate the tree because they could not afford the decorations. However, when the family woke up on Christmas morning, they found that spiders had decorated the tree with their webs. Today, Ukrainians decorate their trees with spider webs in celebration of this moving story and for good luck.
Have you ever heard of a Christmas witch? If you haven’t, you’re about to. In Italy, an ugly but kind witch is known as “La Befana” and she, not Santa Claus, is the one that goes around handing gifts to children. Her story begins when the Wise Men (the ones that were looking for Jesus), came across the witch and asked her if she wanted to search for Jesus with them. She declined the offer claiming she had lots of cleaning to do. However, after the Wise Men left, she realized that the baby was the promised Redeemer that everyone was waiting for and regretted her decision. She was filled with such regret, it led her to wander about Italy searching for the baby redeemer. It’s said that at the Epiphany (January 6) when the Wise Men finally found the Child Jesus, the witch begins rewarding good children and disappointing those who were bad.
Giant Ogress Who Eats Children
Now for something not as scary and monster related. Just kidding! In Iceland, there’s a horrid-looking giant ogress named Grýla who has an insatiable appetite for children who misbehave. At least now she does, in her earlier days, she also ate her husband-because she was bored. However, these days she sticks to children who misbehave. Every year when Christmastime rolls around, the giantess is said to leave the mountains in search of misbehaving children.
If you want more bizarre and weird things, check out Bizarre Facts to Put History into Perspective