Rather than focusing on the usual Christmas traditions, I decided to see what unusual traditions there might be around the globe. I started by asking my boss, who is from Hungary, if they had any weird traditions. She related that in Hungary they celebrate much like we do here in the good ole USA except they have festivities the 25th AND the 26th. If you're like me and grew up in a large family, it's certainly not unusual to stretch the holiday gatherings over more than one day. Suspecting that there is weirdness out there, I turned to the Internet. The first thing I find is an article about the 35 "weirdest" Christmas traditions and knowing that everything on the Internet is true (right?) I figure I'm set. But, some of them seemed so bizarre to me, I thought a little more investigation was warranted.
The first of the 35 "weirdest" traditions is that South Africans eat fried caterpillars for Christmas! Lo and behold! this is true and borne out of necessity and natural occurrences. Yum! Yum! It seems that the caterpillars are an important protein source in parts of the African continent, and they're harvest season coincides with Christmas! Very interesting, but I think I'll stick with turkey and ham for my Christmas protein.
Something else I didn't expect is that several countries have holiday traditions centered around a devil or demons. Why? A National Geographic article explained that Krampus, one example, is the other half of Saint Nicholas who scares children into being nice, not naughty. I can see millions of dollars being made by psychiatrists and counselors worldwide trying to combat the emotional issues that have evolved from this tradition. Check out this picture of the Krampus character! He makes the Grinch seem cute and cuddly!
Next, I decided to tackle the defecating man and the "pooping" log. Really? Yes! Let me set the scene for you. Catalonia is a region of Spain whose existence is based on agriculture, therefore, they celebrate nature, and what's more natural than poo. According to an article I read, "a good bowel movement is not only a sign of a healthy body, but it can also help fertilize the fields and ensure a healthy crop". Thus, we have the Catalan Christmas tradition involving the Caga Tio (the pooping log). Before you freak out imagining the worst, the log "poops" candy, treats, salt herring, a head of garlic, an onion, and something symbolic of urine such as beer. At the end of all the festivities, the log is burned in the fire to keep the children warm.
Along with the pooping log, Catalans also have El Caganer (a defecating peasant) as part of the Nativity scene. Yep, the pooping peasant in the stable with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus! Noone knows the exact origin of El Caganer, but he has been a part of the Nativity since the 18th century. Again, there is likely an agrarian influence involved in the inclusion of this character in the Catalan celebrations. I had a toy, candy "pooping" reindeer once. Maybe that idea was inspired by El Caganer.
While I discovered many other holiday traditions that are different and/or unusual to me, these I've written about here are at the top of my list. I'd love to hear from you if you know of other equally bizarre Christmas activities.
My family traditions include visiting family members, eating, gifts, home decorations, watching Christmas movies, going to our small town Christmas parade, and a visit from Santa Claus. But the most important tradition for my family is participating in church activities that honor Jesus Christ, whose birth is the real reason for Christmas! No matter what your traditions may be I hope your Christmas is Merry and Bright!