Christmas has been the most important Christian holiday for centuries. It began to be celebrated in 354, when Pope Liberius announced December 25th as the day on which the birth of Jesus Christ would be commemorated. Many traditions have emerged over this long period. Some of them are pretty strange. We at The Dope Lists have collected 10 Christmas traditions that we are almost convinced you have not heard of.
Bad Santa Claus
Getting on Santa’s list of bad kids is definitely not the worst thing that can happen to you. Krampus is the evil double of Santa Claus, whose task is to punish all disobedient children. On December 6th, the men put on unique costumes to walk the streets and instill terror in the little “kalpazans.” And the next day, they find that their socks are full of charcoal instead of toys and sweets. The tradition is widespread in Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, and Bavaria.
In the Spanish province of Catalonia, people have a fascinating tradition. They carve a log and place it on four wooden legs, and on one side, a smiling face is painted. From December 8th, the log is fed with treats and wrapped in a blanket. At Christmas, they throw it in the fireplace and start hitting it with a stick to release all the goodies collected. There is also a special song that the family sings while performing the ritual.
The Yule Goat
The roots of the tradition date back to when Christianity had not yet taken root in Northern Europe. In the Scandinavian countries, the goat is considered a symbol of the god Thor and fertility, and in some areas, it is considered a symbol of the devil. However, they perceive it, in December the mythical goats adorn all Scandinavian cities. In the Swedish town of Galve, a 13-meter straw goat is made every year, the goal of which since 1966 has been to be set on fire and burned out completely.
It must be hard for you to imagine a cucumber as a Christmas toy. But in Germany, this is an old tradition. The pickle is hidden in the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, and on the following day, children take turns looking for it. Whoever finds it receives an additional gift. It is not clear how exactly this tradition originated. The most famous legend says that one of the captured soldiers during the Civil War would die of starvation and beg the guard for a cucumber. It saved his life, and the soldier returned to his family. Since then, every year, he started to put a pickle on the Christmas tree, which would bring health and luck to the one who found it.
This pagan tradition dates back years before the celebration of Christmas was introduced. People disguise themselves by attaching a white cloth to a pole to cover them and place a mare’s or donkey’s skull on top of it. In place of the ears are put on two black pieces of cloth and on the eyes two green bottles. Groups of 5-6 people, led by the mare, go around the houses and compete in singing with the hosts. In most cases, the carolers win and enter the house. If the hosts beat them, the carolers must sing a song asking to be let inside.
The Yule Cat
This tradition is widespread in Iceland. Every year on Christmas Eve, the cat appears. If you imagine a little sweet fluffy ball, you are cruelly mistaken. This cat is not good. Everyone who has worked during the year receives new clothes for Christmas. To scare the children and encourage them to help with the housework, their parents say that the Yule Cat will recognize the lazy kids by the lack of new clothes and eat them. They also encourage children to help the poor by giving them new clothes to protect them from the Yule Cat.
Walking to cemeteries
On Christmas Eve, families gather around the table and spend the evening together in anticipation of Christmas. The Finns are an exception. Tradition dictates that the family must go to the cemetery and light a candle in memory of the deceased loved ones. Over 75% of people follow this tradition. Even if you have no defunct relatives, going to the cemetery is mandatory. Elsewhere in the world, the dead are honored by leaving an empty chair and utensils on the table so that the person’s spirit can be with his/her family on holiday.
April Fool Day, but in… December
It sounds bizarre, but it is true. In Puerto Rico, the post-Christmas festivities continue with the day you have to deceive someone. And again, no, it’s not April Fool’s Day; it’s December 28th. However, in Puerto Rico, the jokes are on an entirely different level. Men disguise themselves as King Herod’s soldiers and kidnap children. People are obliged to give them sweets in exchange for the kids’ freedom. It looks more like a kidnapping day than a fool one.
Greedy little hands
In Serbia, children seem to become quite sinister in their attempts to get Christmas presents earlier. Two weeks before the holiday, they tie up their mothers and start shouting, ‘Mother’s Day, Mother’s Day, what are you going to do to get out of captivity?’ To free themselves, the mothers give some of the Christmas presents. The following week, the fathers suffered the same. To have balance, Serbs have a special day in which parents tie their children and make them promise to be obedient.
The Giant Lantern Festival
Ligligan Parul Sampernandu, as the locals call it, is held every year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve in the city of San Fernando – the Christmas capital of the Philippines. The event attracts tourists from the country and from all over the world. The competition between the participants is very fierce as everyone tries to make the most enormous and most attractive lantern. The first lanterns were one meter high, but by 2019 their size had reached about 6 meters. The tradition of making them from Japanese origami paper is preserved today.
Were you surprised by any tradition? Some are quite strange but undoubtedly interesting, especially if observed for centuries. Finally, we will share another tradition with you. In the Czech Republic, on Christmas Eve, unmarried women throw their shoes across the threshold of their front door. If the shoe falls so that it points to the front door with its tip, it means that the girl will get married next year. If not, the same custom is repeated next Christmas.
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