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6 Very, Very Unique (REAL) Holiday Traditions

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Red-nosed reindeer. Talking snowman. Cyber Monday. The holidays are full of odd traditions. But some really do stand head and shoulders above the rest.


Caga Tio, The Pooping Log


What if you like piñatas but wish they involved fire and defecation? Enter Caga Tio, a hollow log with stick legs and a happy little face painted on one end. Each night starting on December 8th, people lovingly give Tio something to “eat” and place a blanket on top of him so he won’t get cold at night. This continues until Christmas Eve, when after days of kindness Caga Tio is then hurled into a burning fireplace and beaten mercilessly with sticks until he poops out candy, fruits and nuts, all as the family sings a happy song. When Caga Tio is finished going number two while engulfed in flames, he excretes one last item, which could be a salt herring or garlic bulb. Then he urinates and dies.


Black Pete. Yes, You Read That Right.


The Dutch take on Santa Claus differs in a few ways from other traditions. For starters, Santa (“Sinterklaas”) resides not in the frigid North Pole but rather in lovely Spain. Second, instead of flying reindeer Santa arrives by a certainly more believable—though time-consuming—steamship. And last but not least, rather than be surrounded by elves, this Santa is never without his holiday slave, “Black Pete” (“Zwarte Piet”), who hands out cookies to kids when not kidnapping them for being naughty. In recent years attempts have been made to update “Black Pete” by simply saying he looks that way from chimney soot, resulting in a yearly blackface routine that might even make old vaudevillian performers go, “Damn!”


Krampus, Everybody’s Favorite Seasonal Satan


You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen. But can you recall the most famous demonic holiday beast of all? Meet Krampus, Santa’s “Muscle-for-Hire.” In continuing a seemingly age-old yuletide tradition of child abduction—and allowing Santa to use the old good cop/bad cop routine—Claus hands out gifts to all the nice children while Krampus shoves the naughty ones in a sack and devours them for his Christmas dinner (before berating himself for eating so much during the holidays). Krampus Day is still celebrated on December 5th in Austria, though without the monster’s chains, beating rod and taste for human flesh.


Charlotte’s Web: The Holiday Sequel


In the Ukraine there is a holiday legend about a window who was too poor to decorate the Christmas tree for her children (retold in the classic stop-motion Christmas TV cartoon, “The Year Without Having to Unsnarl the Tree Lights”). But come Christmas morning the family awoke to find a spider had covered the tree in a beautiful glittering web. Plus, the web turned into silver and gold, making the family rich. And it could power cars, make kids fly and stop aging, though I may be making those last few up. Nowadays people decorate their Christmas trees with fake spider webs and spiders for good luck. And maybe a fake pig under the tree that one of the webs says is “Terrific.”


Because Nothing Says Christmas like KFC


In Japan Santa has long ago been replaced by another bearded senior citizen, Colonel Sanders. Starting with its first special Christmas meal (chicken and wine) in 1974, KFC has become such an integral part of the holidays that not only must people make reservations for a table weeks in advance but it’s simply not Christmas if you don’t come home with a yuletide bucket of fried chicken, salad and chocolate cake. Rumors that the Three Wise Men bring the Baby Jesus Mashed Potato, Rice and Chicken & Biscuit Bowls have yet to be confirmed.


Decomposed Meat Gifts

In contrast to Japan’s taste for 11 herbs and spices, some citizens of Greenland start their holidays by first killing an auk, a penguin-looking bird that can fly but sadly not fast enough. Then the bird is flayed, wrapped in seal skin (yes, it just keeps getting worse) and buried under a rock in the cold for several months so it properly freeze and rot before being served up on Christmas Day to what may be the most forgiving houseguests in the world.

Which is your favorite strange holiday tradition? Let us know in the comments!

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