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Weird Christmas Traditions

Updated on December 22, 2011

The Wrath of Krampus

Everyone knows if you're a good little child, then you will be visited by Santa Claus, or some benevolent variation. But what happens to the bad little children?

Long before the Grinch made his storybook debut, Austrians were frightening their youngsters with tales of Krampus! Named for the German word for claw, this horned beast is said not only steals all their toys, but he supposedly also beats them with sticks! Some versions have him eating little children, or drowning them in the nearest river.

Considering Austria isn't that far from the birthplace of the Brothers Grimm, this kind of weird Christmas tradition shouldn't be a shocker. After all, these are the same people who claim that wolves are full of wolves, bears, and witches residing in cottages made of gingerbread and candy to keep their kids from exploring too deep into the forest. Behaving at Christmastime seems almost tame in comparison.

Santa's Little Slave?

Sure, it's adorable when Kris Kringle sings the Sinterklass song in, "The Miracle on 34th Street." But the truth of the matter is that there are so many things wrong with this version of Santa that I'm not sure where to begin.

First off, this weird Christmas tradition hails from the Dutch. Before racism in America took its toll on the world, legend depicted Zwarte Piet as Santa's little black slave. The reason is that Sinterklass is too old to get off his horse and go into all those homes to deliver presents, so Zwarte Piet did it for him. However, while reading up on this guy it seems that if children were naughty then Zwarte Piet bagged them up and took them back to his native country, Spain.

If visiting a country that celebrated this weird Christmas tradition, my only response would be, "No habla, Zwarte Piet! No habla!" On a more serious note, while I'm all for pushing the boundaries of political correctness, even I think this is a bit over the top. And many of the Dutch find this one more than a little racist, also.

This Ain't Your Grandma's Yule Log

Unless your grandma is from Catalonia, in which case -- let the pooping begin!

Oh yes. Beginning on December 8th, the feast of Immaculate Conception, children all over Catalonia (and outlying areas) begin feeding their Tió de Nadal (which translates to "Christmas log". Another name for it is Caga Tió, or "poop log") and then cover him with a blanket so he will not be cold at night. While store-bought versions are available with two stumpy front legs, a painted on face, and a cute little hat...literally, it's just a hollowed-out log.

Finally, on Christmas day, the family takes sticks and beats the crap (pun intended!) out of the little bugger in hopes that he'll defecate a bounty of nuts, candies, and dried fruits. When Tio de Nadal drops a salt herring, onion, or head of garlic, the celebration comes to an end. Caga Tio is then either burned in the fireplace, or saved in the attic with the fake tree, lights, and other Christmas decorations until next year.

All Kids Love Log

The Best Weird Christmas Traditions

The best weird Christmas traditions are the ones people make for themselves. For instance, each year since her kids were all adults and living on their own, my mom uses cardboard boxes to create a giant train under her Christmas tree. Each person's gifts are in their box. It helps keep things organized and nobody has to worry about who accidentally took what person's stuff home with them at the end of the day, or what got left behind.

Every year there is one member of my husband's family who re-gifts something to me from years past. We've made a tradition out of guessing what item I'll get this year that we've already seen this person open. It's especially fun when the person leaves the gift tag in the box, so we know what offending family member gave it in the first place.

One set of neighbors have no children and none of their other family lives nearby. They've made it a tradition to spend all their spare time in the week before the holiday baking loaves of bread and dozens of cookies and other treats. Then they wrap them in baskets and take them to businesses who are open on Christmas day -- convenience stores, the fire department, the hospital, et cetera. And then they follow it up with a nice dinner at the local Chinese restaurant and a movie.

I'd love to hear about other weird traditions -- whether from other parts of the world or just something local to you. Thanks for reading!


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