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Decorating gingerbread houses, hunting down the perfect tree, drinking eggnog, and singing carols are all Christmas traditions shared across the U.S. Many families serve up feasts that include things such as; green bean casserole, candied yams, mashed potatoes, a juicy ham, chocolate cake and pumpkin pie to top things off. There is nothing like a big feast and lots of gifts being passed around, to bring families together.

Besides all the assumed traditions, every individual family has their own quirky Christmas traditions. Whether you leave beer and cookies for Santa, wear the same pair of funky socks every year for Christmas, or decorate pineapples instead of trees; each unique quirk makes the holidays special in some way. Now aside from the “friendly” neighborhood Christmas light competition, and the 24 hour Yule Log burning on television, many families across the states have Christmas traditions akin to those in other countries. 

Have you ever wondered if adults in Ireland have been hanging their christmas ornaments in that same spot since they were 7, much like you? How about Australia? Do their families participate in Christmas Karaoke as well? Wouldn’t you be surprised to hear that grandfathers in Bolivia read A Christmas Story to their grandkids in character voices just like yours would. Surprisingly, your family isn’t the only one with quirky traditions. 

Rice Pudding

Stir Up Something Good
In England, families whip up a popular rice pudding dessert, and family members take turns stirring it clockwise and making wishes. A coin can be thrown into the mix as a symbol of wealth for the coming year, to whoever receives it in their serving. A ring can be placed in the pudding as well, as a symbol of marriage in the future year, or a thimble for protection. 

Aiming For Marriage
Many people have superstitions that they believe will bring them good luck for the year to come. Much like the English hoping to find a ring in their pudding, many women around the world have their own beliefs they hope will help them in finding a loved one in the year to come. In the Czech Republic, it is traditional for a woman to stand in their yard, away from their house, and throw a shoe bacAiming for Marriage, Czech Republickwards towards the house. If the heel of the shoe is pointed towards the door, the woman will be single for the year to come. Also, prepare yourself for the results. Don’t be disappointed if your shoes keep telling you that you will be single the rest of your life. Remember, it’s just an old superstition. Beside, it just might mean that it’s time for a new pair of shoes, and who doesn’t love an excuse to go shopping?

Poop-tastic
Christmas Eve (Nochebuena or The Good Night) in Spain is a night for families to gather to feast on truffle-stuffed (not the chocolate ones) Christmas turkey. After dinner, everyone gathers around the nativity scene and Cagatio (or the pooping log), which is placed in fireplace. Children gather Cagatioaround to beat the log until it poops out fruits, candies, nuts, salted berries, or garlic or an onion. The night is usually interrupted by the midnight bell for La Misa Del Gallo, or Rooster’s Mass, which is a long-standing tradition because It is believed that a rooster crowed on the night of Jesus’ birth. After mass, carolers take to the streets with fire torches, zambomba(drums), tambourines and guitars, singing beautiful carols for all to enjoy..

El CaganerThe Little Crapper
Everyone is familiar with the sacred nativity scene. It can be found in many homes, outside of churches and in town squares. Most consist of the statues of Mary, Joseph, the Three Kings bearing their gifts, a camel and often several other animals surrounding
baby Jesus in a manger, pretty much everything you would expect. What you wouldn’t expect to see is a Caganer statue. In Italy, as well as in Catalonia, Spain and Caganer ObamaSouthern France, it is traditional to have a statue of a man defecating. Yes, defecating! The word El Caganer literally means “the crapper” or “the shitter”. No worries though, he’s not disturbing the sweet baby Jesus who takes care of his business privately in a back corner. Today, the ante has been upped, since you can get your own Caganer figure of celebrities and world leaders including Prince William, Shakira, Obama, and even Mick Jagger doing their business The holidays can be stressful at times. Why not add a little humor to keep everyone relaxed and feeling relieved?

Webs of Silver and Gold
Speaking of stressful, how would you like to wake up on Christmas morning to find your trees covered in spider webs? Who has time for that during the holidays? I If you’re anything like me, you just might consider immediately burning down the house! But not so much if you lived in the Ukraine. Instead of using popcorn or tinsel to cover the tree, families in Webs of Silver and Gold, Ukrainethat country decorate their trees with spider webs as a symbol of good luck. The tradition began with the story of a widow and her children, upon whose small, cold hut a pine cone had fallen on the floor, and taken root. The children were excited to have a tree for Christmas, but they were too poor to decorate it. The next morning, the family was surprised to find that a spider had covered the tree with webs during the night. The rays from the morning sun shot through the windows, and once it hit the tree, the webs instantly turned to gold and silver,  and from that moment on, the fortunate and very happy widow never wanted for anything more.

The Gävle Goat! Yuletide Up in Flames
Speaking of setting things on fire...The Gävle Goat, a traditional Swedish Yule Goat figure, seems to catch fire every year. The tradition started when Stig Gavlén, an advertising consultant came up with the The Gavle Goat, Swedishidea to create this gigantic straw version of the yuletide goat. But with this great idea came an unusual problem, because every year an arsenist set fire to the giant goat. Year after year the people of the town would ask, “Will the goat burn down this year?” You would think that they would just give up, but as it turned up the burning of the goat became a part of the tradition. And these days, people even make bets on how far into the event they will get, before the goat is burned down again

Krampus- Here Comes Evil
While the people in Gävle Krampusare placing bets on burning goats, in the streets of Germany, people are avoiding being attacked by Krampus. When you think of Santa or Ole St. Nick, you imagine a jolly old man bringing joy into the lives of families all over the world. But with every ounce of good that Santa brings comes a little bit of evil, named Krampus. Krampus is known as the evil Santa, St. Nicks evil brother or the Christmas Devil. Unlike SantaCon in America where people get together dressed up like Santa and take to the streets for fun, in Germany, Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, many take to the streets dressed as Krampus in order to terrorize children for a The Christmas DevilKrampuslauf. The tradition started in Germany where people would dress as Krampus the night before St. Nicholas Day, and go out and swat naughty children with sticks, or worse, to take them away to his lair. So, if you’re having trouble getting your children to behave during the holidays, you can always frighten them; or even better, possibly give them nightmares and horrible Christmas memories for the rest of their lives.

The Philippines, Venezuela, India, Finland
There are many other traditions around the world that may seem weird, but none as horrifying as Krampus, the Christmas Devil. In the Philippines, children put their shoes or socks in their windows for the Three Kings to put gifts in, as they pass through the town. In Venezuela, children tie string to their toes before bed, and put the other end out the window. Early Christmas morning, the streets are closed for people to roller skate to church. If they pass by a window with string hanging out, they tug at it to wake the sleeper to be ready for church. In India, there aren’t any evergreens, so families usually decorate banana or mango trees. To go along with the spiritual side of Christmas, families in Finland take to family grave sites after sunset, to honor ancestors by placing candles on their graves.
Christmas Banana Tree, IndiaChristmas Graves, Finland

All the wonderful festivities, decorating whatever type of tree you have, visiting family near and far, cooking up a wonderful feast, and staying warm by a burning goat figure, or the imagine of a cozy fire on television with loved ones are what make the holidays so special. Children are counting down the days they have left to pretend to be a good girl or good boy, so that they will receive gifts from whoever it may be. If it is Santa, they may have already started on their letters to the North Pole.

Searching for the North Pole
For years letters sent to Santa by children have somehow been lo
st in the mail; possibly because no one imagined there being an actual address to the North Pole. Luckily, Canada is here to assist parents from all over with worried children. Many postal elves assist TV Yule LogSanta with replying to each and every letter sent to the North Pole (with return addresses of course). Replies are sent out in over 30 languages, including braille. If you plan on putting a letter in the mail anytime soon, address the letter to: Santa Claus at North Pole H0H 0H (with zeros) Canada, but be sure to send them out by Dec.16. It’s a long way to the North Pole!

-Check your local listings for WPIXs 24 hour TV Yule Log.

And from all of us to all of you, we wish you a very merry, happy, prosperous, intriguing, gratifying and satisfying HAPPY HOLLIDAY SEASON! 

 

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 198 - December 2017
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