Yesterday I was doing some Christmas (and personal) shopping at one of my affiliates, Lakeside Collection, when one of their sidebar articles caught my eye: Unique Christmas Traditions from Around the World.
Presents under the tree and milk and cookies for Santa — it’s what Americans do every year in anticipation of Christmas. Around the globe, people of different cultures have their own traditions to celebrate Christmas, and some are more unique than others.
Whoa! Wasn’t expecting what I found. Five creepy Christmas traditions from around the world.
Well, really four. One of them I already knew about (Krampus).
But for the heck of it let’s start with him and then address the other four.
Krampus is sort of the antithesis of St. Nick. Where St. Nick is jolly and round, Krampus is horned and hairy.
If Krampus is in your house after dark, that means you’ve been a very naughty child. He’s the one who doles out the punishment of coal. Except in piles of coal. In America we’re taught you’ll just get a lump of coal.
Which, can I just say, has never seemed all that bad to me. It seems like a very practical gift if you need it for heat and energy on a cold winter’s night. (Although I’m sure that’s the point of the punishment. What child wants practical, right?)
By the way, if you want to see Krampus in action, you can courtesy of Hollywood which released a movie of the same name.
In Italy, a witch named La Befana is the one who flies from house to house on her broom to deliver gifts via the fireplace, not Santa Claus.
I’m not hip on my Bible stories so this was a new one to me:
As the legend goes, the Three Wise Men invited the witch to visit baby Jesus in Bethlehem, but the witch was too busy to join them. When news spread about Christ’s birth, she regretted not going with the Three Wise Men. Every year on the Eve of the Epiphany, the witch flies on her broom from house to house using the fireplace as her entrance. She peers in on the sleeping children and leaves gifts just in case one of them happens to be Jesus.
He’s kind of like an elf, except instead of helping Santa make toys, he helps farmers care for their animals. As long as the farmer cares for him, that is. A Christmas Eve offering of porridge and beer is all he requires.
But if the farmer forgets or doesn’t do it? He can expect Nisse to play tricks on him. (Which sort of reminds me of a Gremlin. Sort of.)
The kids are tasked with leaving out porridge for Nisse. I’m guessing the adults handle the beer part.
I’m wondering what kind of tricks he plays? And when Hollywood or a good horror author will get wind of this and create a spooky tale about Nisse…
Finland’s Version of Dia de los Muertos
Lakeside titled the subhead for this tradition “Graveside Yuletide.” After reading it, it reminded me a lot of Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos.
In Finland, Christmas Eve is when families head to the cemeteries to pay their respects to the dead. Sugar skulls and altars don’t feature prominently (well, not even at all) in the Finnish traditions.
But candles do. They’re lighted at the gravesides and special lanterns are fashioned out of snowballs or buckets of ice.
I’m thinking that creates quite a lovely site and I can see how it aids in bringing peace to families mourning those who can’t be with them for the holiday anymore.
This tradition reminded me a lot of the story Charlotte’s Web. In so far as a helpful spider with good intentions who puts its web to work.
In Ukraine the story goes that on Christmas Eve a spider heard the children of a poor family crying. Their family didn’t have money to decorate their Christmas tree.
Wanting to help, the spider spun a glistening web to adorn the tree, much to the family’s delight.
I know there are a lot of arachnophobes out there. Not sure if spiders have the capacity to be so thoughtful in real life, but I love stories like this in which their compassion (whether real or imagined) shines through.
Did you grow up with or did you celebrate any of the above traditions? If not, what are some of your family’s holiday traditions?