Oh, Christmas traditions are a funny thing, eh? We put a dead tree in the living room and wrap it in electric wires, hang socks over a fireplace, drink booze at work parties, exchange gifts we know people will either give away the next year or return, wear sweaters that would make a crazy old lady wince, bribe our kids with gifts if they are good and use a made-up fat guy as leverage, and listen to music that we love until December 26th then completely hate. And all this has to do, somehow, with the Son of God being born in a barn. Trying to explain this holiday to an extraterrestrial would be difficult if not slightly embarrassing but if we compare our traditions with that of other countries, we may come off as silly but at least we aren’t creepy and sadistic. Let me shed some light on a few traditions other countries have on this holiday of holly jolly.
Let’s start with the Scandinavians. Apparently it’s bad news to go out the night of Christmas Eve because this is the night when trolls, goblins, witches and ghost are said to roam the land and before dawn they are the craziest. To venture out means certain death so pray there isn’t a late night run to the local mart for more cheese and beer.
The Swedes take it a step further by actually setting a table with a huge feast for dead relatives to return from the grave and party all night. The (living) family members close off the room, go to bed and not dare return until morning. They observe any signs that there was a ghostly gathering the morning of Christmas and I guess…open presents? No idea.
In Wales, it’s said dogs that howl during the night on Christmas Eve will go mad by years end. They also make a point to keep a candle lit through Christmas day and if it should go out means there will be a death in the house soon. Oh! Also if you cast a shadow on the wall and it appears headless you are totally fucked. I’m not making these up.
Another odd Netherlands tradition or folklore is to clean all of your Christmas decorations by February second and if you are late or leave behind any needles from wreaths or a tree, that is how many spirits and demons you will have for the rest of the year. This folklore I happen to like because seeing neighbors with Christmas decorations up any longer than a month after December should result in at least a curse.
Here is my personal favorite and it hails from Austria. I am not sure how cute elves were brought about as St. Nick’s assistant because the origin of Santa has a demon named Krampus helping him out. Yeah, a demon who tags along with him to handle the “naughty” list. Did I mention he is a rape demon too? Apparently he is described as an incubus that preys on sleeping people and follows around St. Nick delivering beatings to bad kids and the really bad ones go with Krampus down to Hell. This reward to punishment ratio seems a little bit one sided. If you are good you get a bunch of candy in your shoe. Bad, you get raped, beaten and dragged to Hell.
Damn, Santa is kind of a sick jerk.